Author's Note: And this is what happens when I watch a movie, and find I out that I really like it. After seeing Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, I became hooked on Tifa and Cloud.

This particular fic is going to be two chapters. This first chapter is in Cloud's point of view, while the second will be in Tifa's point of view. I hope you enjoy my ramblings. Thanks for taking a peek, and leave a review if you can.

This takes place roughly four months after Advent Children.

Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII/FFVII: Advent Children.

Tangled Thoughts

Cloud's POV

Sometimes…I catch myself wondering if I deserve the life that I live - the one that's formed so intricately, so dazzlingly around me. This carefree existence I partake in now almost seems foreign to me. It's as if I'm living in an imagined daydream, carrying out a life I only thought would be possible in another time and place, never actually belonging to myself...a life that's always out of reach, tucked away tightly in the back of my mind. I find myself having to stop sometimes, and just breathe…

…breathe in the air that seems lighter than the oppressive atmosphere that I had survived in my entire life…

…breathe in the refreshing smell of an encircling freedom - one not only of the mind, but of spirit as well.

This newness which I find myself immersed in has only been with me for four months. So short a time, yet so long. I find myself fearing that it's really nothing… just a delusional hope that's gotten carried away in my mind and taken on a sadistic life of its own.

But then, I think of the things around me that can't be imagined - things that I find myself looking for…hoping for…living for.

Rampant thoughts of inadequacy filled me a few months ago. They surrounded me, enveloping my whole body in a steel-like cloak of suppression, drowning my mind to anything and everything. Though…these days I'm less and less plagued by those imaginings of uselessness, guilt, and the insurmountable fear, which had gripped my soul - a fear that had me alone in the world by a self-imposed alienation. At that time, I had convinced myself I was helpless to protect those whom I wanted to protect. I had even gone as far to believe that they would be better off without the insufficient presence that I thought I represented, especially when I had been infected with the geostigma. Today, I'd like to think I've moved beyond those once crippling thoughts.

A chilled breeze swept over my skin, drawing me out of my inner ramblings, and making me blink at my dim surroundings. My bedroom was lit only by the meager moonlight slipping discreetly through the open window. A small gust of wind tousled my hair and brushed lightly against the curtains billowing beside the opening. With a heavy sigh, I blinked slightly, running calloused hands over my weary face. My muscles were aching from the day's strenuous work, and my mind brimming with things that needed to be accomplished within the next few days.

I reached down, grabbed the hem of my black shirt and pulled it over my head, throwing the dirty clothing into the corner onto a growing pile of sullied garments that needed a good washing. The cool air felt refreshing on my sweaty skin, and I couldn't help the slight shiver that quaked my shoulder blades.

Night had fallen without incident, leaving a cloak of darkness in its wake. A soft quietness filled the air, creating an aura of calm stillness. Moving over to the bed, I sat down in the edge, leaning my forearms against my thighs. These dark hours gave me a time to refresh myself and my mind, allowing an introspective period that I had come to expect. It was refreshing to have a balance of quiet time and busy moments that were usually filled with the constant activity that the orphans presented.

Not two hours ago, Tifa and I had put both Denzel and Marlene to bed, tucking the rascals in and leaving them contently sleepy in the warmth of their blankets. Those actions had become routine to me, but not obligatory. Never obligatory. I viewed both Denzel and Marlene as much as my own progeny as I could. Though they weren't biologically mine, it was easy to look beyond the boundaries of blood to see only the children, and realize the singular needs they held.

Both children seemed to take delight in the new tradition Tifa had started three months ago as she left the bedroom, allowing me to say goodnight to the two of them on my own. As she left, she would slowly reach up, lean in and kiss the corner of my mouth. The first time had completely blindsided me, and she had quickly left before seeing how I had reacted to her light touch of lips against lips. And as time drew on, she'd pass me with a small touch, brushing her hand lightly against my own; she'd stand just close enough for me to smell the sweet floral scent that clung enticingly to her fragrant hair; and spurred on by the nighttime ritual, she'd lean over sometimes and casually brush her lips over mine as if it were the most natural thing to do in the world.

Her proximity, her actions, her touches had gradually started to awaken my mind. And without even knowing it, I began to expect them, and anticipate the small motions that had become almost ordinary. The pace in which she set was slow, and almost hesitant, as if she was waiting for me to more fully respond to her slight advances. But, despite what I subconsciously yearned to do, these months I had held back. I hadn't really reacted to her in a way she'd fully recognize, yet I hadn't rejected her either.

With the years in which we had both been acquainted, Tifa knew that she had to chisel her way through the thick layer of defense I had resurrected around myself. And despite my careful positioning, she somehow knew where all my weak spots lay in that heavy shield. She knew that applying even the smallest amount of pressure to those places would make me crumble inwardly to reveal what I had kept so carefully hidden these many years.

She wanted to see what secrets were locked in my heart. I wonder if she knew that she had always held the key to unlock them.

But…wait a second.

Where was I?

I don't know how, or when I had managed to walk down the narrow stairs, through the hall and into the main area of the bar, but as I roused myself from my blinding thoughts, I found myself standing in the doorway, facing the very person who had claimed my mind.


She hadn't noticed me yet, her attention set on the dirty glasses she was busying herself with cleaning, making sure there would be plenty of clean glassware for tomorrow's customers. Her eyes were cast downward, intent on her work, and her hair was falling haphazardly into her eyes, causing her to blow out an aimed breath in attempt to remove the annoying strands from her vision. Her nimble hands slipped carefully over the glass she now held, running water over it, scrubbing it, then finally drying it with a small, white hand-towel.

As if in deep thought, she caught her lower lip between her teeth as her eyebrows scrunched together quizzically. A slight smudge of dirt crossed the flushed skin of her left cheekbone, and I could only imagined how that had gotten there. As she put aside the now clean glass and reached for another, her eyes flicked up as an afterthought.

My stomach clenched as our eyes met, hers widening slightly, almost surprised to find me standing there in front of her, mine holding her gaze unwaveringly. The glass she had been reaching for seemed forgotten as she stared at my stationary form. Though the sight of me was a surprise, I knew the stiffening of her shoulders and the quickening of her breath wasn't because she didn't want me there. She was just uncertain as what I was actually doing here in the middle of the night, standing like a befuddled zombie, half-naked in the bar.

Tifa blinked and then a small smile curved her lips, making my stomach clench with something that I had been trying to hold back until now - an emotion that I knew would eventually get the better of me, but I still had managed to drag my feet, delaying the onslaught because of an irrational fear which had settled in my gut years ago.

I suppose it really wasn't one feeling or thought which I kept bottled up, or one emotion that stayed imprisoned within. It was really a myriad of many things, or should I say a collection of thoughts that I felt for Tifa over the years, which I filed away because it hadn't been the time or the place to express them.

Looking at her now, watching the calm, welcoming smile I had always associated with her…with Tifa…lighten her features, I knew the time of ignoring that flood of emotions had dwindled away. I had reached the end of the very thin thread holding it all inside.

"Cloud?" she asked softly, her voice pulling at that thread, opening my mind, and allowing me to unfurl from the unnatural state of denial I had immersed myself in.

I was awash with sensations at the familiar sound of her voice and finally opened to a reality that I was now able to understand and accept.

It was a torrent whirlwind. Longing. Desire. Passion. Ardor. Craving. Yearning. Need.


Watching as her brow furrowed again when I didn't respond, I felt my heart thud heavily in my chest. I didn't dare close my eyes, though I wanted to. I needed to collect myself after that thought - the one which I knew would forever change me.

Tifa stepped from behind the counter, her soft footsteps barely reaching me above the heavy roar in my ears, and the loud sound of my heartbeat thundering in my chest. Her eyes were shaded with a questioning concern, her lips parted with inquiry. She came to a short stop directly in front of me. From the corner of my eye, I saw her slightly lift a hand, uncertain as to whether she wanted to physically touch my arm and awaken me from of my self-induced haze.

"Cloud?" she asked again, this time her voice was tinged with apparent disquiet.

Oh, how I loved her.

I wordlessly reached out, wrapped a hand around her lower arm, and pulled her to me gently but firmly. My other hand went up to her face, sliding across the smooth skin of cheek, my fingers trailing the line of her jaw and finally tangling in her dark, silky hair. Tifa was not unaffected by my movements. Her eyes dilated slightly, deepening in color as her lips parted. I let go of her arm, clasping my now free hand on her hip, then slid my arm around her waist to draw her more firmly against me. I felt her breath hitch in her throat.

She stared at me for a moment before her eyes narrowed and her lips twisted with suspicion.

"You're acting awfully weird tonight. Are you okay?"

An amused chuckled rumbled in my throat, and for the first time this night, I felt content. Unbelievably relived as well.

"Never better," I answered softly.

I stared down at her face for a few moments before leaning down and covering her lips with my own. The taste of her lips was familiar and welcoming, the breathy sigh that escaped her made me pull her more tightly against me. I deepened the kiss slowly, letting her sink against me with a throaty moan, her fingers reaching up to sink into my hair. I lost myself in the feel of her against me, the low sounds she made in the back of her throat, and the responsiveness of her body against my own. I'm not sure how long we stood there, wrapped around each other, lips, tongues, mouths searching each others...but for the first time, this kiss wasn't a tentative step toward a relationship I wasn't sure if I wanted or could maintain, this kiss was an exploration of the newfound emotions raging through my bloodstream, settling heavily and unmoving in my racing heart.

Dizziness covered my senses as a heady thread of desire pooled in my gut, my mind lost in everything that was Tifa. She fit against my own body perfectly, her curves pressed to my skin in a deeply satisfying way. My hands clenched in the fabric of her tunic and seemed to slowly draw her out of the daze I had placed her in. Though she remained tucked against me, I felt her settle her hands on my shoulders.

She pulled away slightly, moving her now swollen lips mere inches from mine, her eyelids heavy as she visibly tried to connect with reality. Her eyes held a quiet hesitation in them that gradually, slowly cleared as she stared at me.

I know she was confused, uncertain as what had gotten into me. But I needed her now - I had to make sure that this was real. That she was real. That this night wasn't a dream I had conjured up in my restless sleep. She tilted her head to the side as if acknowledging my desperation, as if she understood the downward spiral of my thoughts.

And then, Tifa smiled. Reaching up, she ran a hand down my face, down my cheek, down my neck, coming to a halt on my chest. Her palm pressed against where my heart lay.

"Are you sure?"

I hummed lowly in accord, lowering my forehead to hers and sucking in a deep breath to replenish my lungs with needed air. Though this woman sent my mind in endless circles of questioning thought, made by stomach churn with nervous and indecisive sensations, and managed to invade my entire being without permission, I welcomed the intrusion. I even cherished it.

I had been alone before her.

Now…I knew with her around, I'd never feel that overwhelming pressure of loneliness, the terrible draw of depressive solitude. Just being with Tifa made me whole…made me a better person.

I felt her smile before I saw it. Her hands were warm against the bare skin of my arms as she slid them up, then down, wrapping the fingers of her left hand around my right. Stepping away from me, she pulled my arm with her, slowly coercing me to come with her. Watching the questioning play of emotions cross her memorable features, a comfortable wholeness filled me.

And I followed her.

Author's Notes: Please review. Hope you enjoyed. The next chapter should be out relatively soon. I have the coming weekend free, so hopefully that'll give me plenty of time to finish it. Till then…