Title: Thunderstorms and Confessions
Summary: (One-shot) At twenty-two, most people aren't afraid of thunderstorms. Well, maybe except for a certain twenty-two year old bartender.
Pairing: Cloud x Tifa
Disclaimer: The usual, I don't own the characters at all while Square Enix does.


A flash of bright light lit the room for a moment before the thunder sounded after. The light sounds of the rain pelting the ground outside could be heard. Within a few seconds, the soft patter grew heavier as it rained harder. Another flash of lightning was followed by a louder, almost-deafening thunder.

A young woman, in her early twenties, gripped the comforter tighter. She bit her lower lip as lightning cut across the skies, lighting her dark room once more. She braced herself for the inevitable sound – the one sound that she disliked since childhood, and still do. At the sound of the familiar clap, she immediately hid her head beneath the covers. The thunder rang loud and clear.

"Please just go away. Please just go away," she silently muttered to herself. "Of all days to have a thunderstorm, why today?"

Outside, the howling sounds of the wind made the little hairs on her arms stood upright. On the street, metal cans and whatnots clashed into one another as the strong wind blew past. Sounds of mewing stray cats with the occasional barking from the dogs further added to the racket.

"Of all days…" she muttered again.

Tifa Lockhart, twenty-two – a martial artist who has faced monsters and crazy, evil silver-haired men attempting to take over the world – was home alone and very much afraid of thunderstorms. She cringed when she heard the sound of a loud crash from outside. After a moment of contemplation, Tifa bravely decided to check what it was. As soon as her right foot touched the floor, lightning flashed again and she immediately withdrew her foot into the safety of her bed. This time, the thunder wasn't as loud as the previous, but it still spooked her just as much. Small and big thunders don't really make a big difference, she thought to herself. They are still thunders.

The wind blew forcefully and another loud crashing sound that sounded like metal hitting the gravel was heard. There was also the sound of glass breaking. Tifa tucked the stray strands of sable hair to her ears as she got her bearings up. She quickly wrapped the comforter over herself as she took tentative steps to the window. A streetlight was bent out of its shape, blown over by the strong wind. The bulb had fallen unhinged from its hold and glass shards were now on the gravel. Tifa shivered at the sight before her, realizing the fact that the thunderstorm was getting worse and wasn't stopping anytime soon.

She continued watching as she saw cardboards, plastic bags, and all things that could be found on a street, being flung about by the wind as if the wind was playing with them. She winced every time an item hit someone's door or window; a little worried that someone would have suddenly opened them and not realized the flying object hurtling towards them. Tifa scanned the area to ensure there was no one wandering about in the streets.

A flash of lightning suddenly appeared before her, almost causing her to jump back in fright and tripping over the ends of her comforter in the process. The comforter around her shoulders fell to the floor and she immediately felt the sudden chill nipped at her skin. Before she could quickly pick it up again, the sudden clap of the thunder rang loud and clear. Tifa quickly crouched low with her hands at her ears as the heavy rumbles followed after.

"I hate thunderstorms."

"Really?"

The sudden sound of a male's voice made Tifa's head jerk up in surprise before she quickly whirled around. Forgetting she was in a crouching position, the sudden turnaround had her losing her balance as her legs gave way – she ended up falling on her behind with a loud thud.

The newcomer smirked as he unhurriedly made his way towards her. Little droplets of water fell onto the floorboards as he walked. His blond hair, miraculously – was still defying gravity despite the wetness that should have weighed it down. He was careful enough to not step on her white rug with his slightly muddy boots as he walked across the room. When he reached her side, he crouched to her level with eyebrows raised.

"What are you doing here?" She asked as she rubbed her behind to get rid of the dull ache.

"I thought I should come back as soon as I left the kids with Barrett."

"But I thought you were planning to stay there for a day or two before coming home with the kids."

"I heard there would be a thunderstorm," he replied with a slight shrug of his shoulders.

"So –"

"So I thought I should come home."

"Oh Cloud, I'm fine. Really. You should have stayed at Corel. Marlene and Denzel would have loved to have you there with them," she said with what she hoped was a reassuring smile. Tifa knew he knew of her fear for thunderstorms. But she also knew that he enjoyed making fun of her for it.

"You are lying."

"Of course I'm not. I'm really fine," she said as she stood up proudly with arms akimbo. "See? Nothing to worry about," she continued nonchalantly.

"Is that why you are with a comforter tightly wrapped around you and almost jumped out of your skin when the lightning flashed?"

"Well, that's because it's really cold," She made a quick shivering motion just to emphasize her words.

His blue Mako orbs eyed her with interest and slight amusement. His face remained expressionless, but his eyes revealed all. That was a feature of his that Tifa loved, it was the window to his soul – as cheesy as it sounded. Most people found him emotionless and stoic, but they never realized that they could actually glimpse into his feelings if they were to look into his eyes. They held his unsaid words and unexpressed emotions. Cloud kept his gaze on her as he stood up. He watched her and her defiant stance to prove she was unafraid for a moment before speaking up, "Alright then Tifa." He then turned around to take his leave.

"Where are you going?" She promptly asked.

He noted the harried tone in her voice. Cloud's lips curled into a small smile. "Back to Corel," he answered simply without looking back.

"You are not serious are you? In this thunderstorm where things are being wildly blown around and the rain's raging out there?"

He merely shrugged in response without a word.

"Clo–" her next words were cut off as the gruesome sound of thunder was heard, this time without a flash of lightning as a warning. A squeak of horror escaped Tifa's lips as her hands immediately reached forward to Cloud and gripped the back of his sleeveless top.

"Nothing to worry about huh?" he spoke with humor laced in his voice.

"I was just – just wanting to stop you from leaving in this thunderstorm." Tifa quickly released her hold on him. She was thankful for the darkness which prevented the redness of her cheeks from being too noticeable.

Then again, this was Cloud she was talking to, he knew her like the back of his hand as she for him. He turned around to face her with a small smile on his features, "Tifa, you do know the Fenrir is able to endure such weathers right? It's been through more than just thunderstorms."

"But you can't. You are going to fall sick to ride under such weather."

Cloud shot her a blank look and she knew her reason wasn't quite valid. "Right," Tifa nodded as she racked her mind to think of something else to counter him with. "Well, this time the thunderstorm's even worse."

Another small smile played at his lips as he fought hard not to break into a grin at her attempts to make him stay and yet not admit she was afraid of the thunderstorm. "Tifa, I've been through a hailstorm once," he reminded her.

"Right."

"Tifa, I know you are afraid of –" he began.

"I'm not. I'm fine. Absolutely fine."

His mouth snapped shut at her statement. He nodded lightly.

"I'm twenty-two Cloud, I think I would be – not afraid of thunderstorms by now." Although it was a statement to convince Cloud, it had sounded more of statement to convince herself. She didn't want him to feel that she was relying on him too much. He needed his own personal space and Tifa didn't want to scare him away, especially since he had been around more since the Geostigma events. She knew he would need time to adjust himself to the 'family life' again and she was more than willing to provide him the time. She flashed a smile at him.

"Alright. If you say so."

"I do."

"Good."

Just as Cloud turned around once more, lightning cut across the window and lit the room in an almost blinding glow. Before the thunder could make itself heard, Tifa had already lunged for Cloud. However, her sudden move was caught by her comforter and it tangled with her feet. "Cloud!"

Instinctively, by the tone of urgency in her voice, he swiftly turned around to catch her fall on time. Tifa looked up embarrassedly from his arms and Cloud couldn't help but chuckle. A small pout formed on her lips at his mirth. He made sure she was standing steadily before letting go of her and crouched low to her feet. His next move caught her off guard as he gently untangled the comforter from her feet.

She softly said her thanks. He looked up at her with a smile. Wine orbs met blue ones in a moment of comfortable silence. The raging storm outside was forgotten. His eyes reflected a warm, affectionate glow within them – one that she had slowly recognized over time, was only reserved for her and the children. This time, it reflected more than just that as she caught glimpse of a fervent passion. A moment of longing and wanting. A moment of his broken-down defenses. Just as her lips parted to say something, he immediately stood up and broke the gaze.

"I – I'll be downstairs at the bar if you need me," he said almost inaudibly as he made his leave for the doorway.

Barely within a few steps away from the door, lightning swiftly made its presence as the rolling clap of thunder followed. On an impulse, Tifa darted for Cloud. Caught by surprise at her abrupt grip on him, Cloud stumbled forward with a sudden jerk. His fall was hindered by his quick reflex that had his feet finding a stable stance. She had her hands around him by the chest and he could hear her trembling breath.

"Tifa," he said softly, "Are you okay?"

A few seconds of silence passed before he finally heard her response. "No," she inaudibly admitted.

His next words were tentatively posed, "Do you want me to stay?"

"Yes."

Cloud slowly turned around to face her. Her hands were about to fall to her sides but he took hold of them and slid them around his waist. Tifa looked up at him in surprise but he said nothing but positioned his own arms around her. He pulled her closer to him.

"This will keep you warm. And less afraid," he quietly said.

Tifa couldn't help but smile with a light nod, not minding the dampness of his clothes. As they stood there in an embrace to keep each other warm, it conveyed what words could probably not say enough – she needed him, as much as he needed her. Minutes passed before she steadily pulled back from the embrace and tugged on his arms to motion him to sit. She waited for him to sit himself down comfortably before settling herself in his arms once more. Upon contact with the cold floorboards, a shiver ran through her skin. Noticing this, Cloud left her side and grabbed the comforter that had lain forgotten. With a small smile tugging at his lips, he placed it over her shoulders before sitting himself behind her once more. She leaned back on his chest and tugged the comforter around him as well, to provide warmth for the both of them. Cloud gratefully accepted her gesture as he rested his head on the wall behind him. Outside, the thunderstorm continued its rage. The drumming of the raindrops against the window provided to their contented silence.

"Hey Cloud?"

"Hm?"

"How did you know I've always been afraid of thunderstorms?"

"I heard you saying once when we were kids. Though it wasn't to me," he softly said, sounding a little embarrassed, "I overheard you – when you were with the neighborhood kids."

"Do you know why?" He shook his head in reply although she couldn't see it. "It's because that would mean I wouldn't be able to come out and play."

Her answer occurred to him as an odd one. "That's why you're afraid of thunderstorms?"

"No, it was the other reason behind that. If I couldn't come out to play, then I wouldn't be able to see you. I was afraid of not having to see you," she softly explained. "I guess the fear of thunderstorms just got stuck with me after that. Even if I still get to see you everyday now.

"Pretty silly isn't it?" she said with light chuckle. Cloud didn't answer. She felt his arms around her stiffened. Tifa took it as a sign of awkwardness. "Guess I was being really childish then. But I'll grow out of it. Don't worry."

"Tifa, do you know why I overheard you that day?"

"Because you've always admired me from afar, so you were stalking me?" she joked light-heartedly.

"Well, I wouldn't agree with the second part but the first was true."

Her laughter faltered at his words. She waited for him to continue.

"Because I wanted nothing more but to know you. I loved you. I always have and probably – always will," he whispered.

Her lips curled upwards into a smile at his words. She said nothing but burrowed herself deeper into his arms. Words weren't needed for him to know how she felt for him – he already knew.