Okay, so here is the Cloud/Tifa as promised. I've had this idea for some time now and I finally got around to writing it. I was getting so into Vincent/Yuffie that I forgot that I liked this pairing as much as our gunman and ninja. Cloud is only slightly harder to write than Vincent, but I'll try, just don't get freaked out over the beginning of the fic, things will work out before you know it. I hope everyone enjoys!

Disclaimer: I don't own FFVII or any of the characters used in this piece of fiction. I am making no money off of them.

……………………………

Waiting

……………………………

Denzel watched Tifa as she diligently wiped off the bar counter and then moved on to the tables after escorting her last customers out for the night. He may have still been an eleven-year-old kid, but he could see the underlying sadness behind her sweet smile. He wasn't oblivious like Yuffie said Cloud was, and he knew that Tifa was doing her best to hold things together. Marlene was living with Barret and Elmyra, and Cloud still kept his schedule full. Though he smiled more often, he didn't spend much time at home with them.

"Are you okay?" Tifa asked him with a small smile, waving a hand in front of his face. "You've been staring into space for a while now."

Denzel grinned and nodded. "I was just thinking about something."

"Can I know what?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Naw, mom. It's nothing important."

Tifa started and stared at him in astonishment. "Did you just call me mom?"

Denzel's eyes were wide as he looked at her. "Did I do wrong?"

She shook her head quickly and smiled a genuine, happy smile. "No sweetie, it's the best thing I've ever heard you say to me."

He smiled and nodded, happy that at least he could make her smile. He didn't want to resent Cloud for making Tifa sad, but he had seen the distance that was between the adults. Tifa had been taking care of Denzel for more than a year now; she was the best mom he could've asked for, aside from his real mom, and he spent most of his time with Tifa and barely saw Cloud when he returned from his deliveries. Denzel had wanted a real family to be with since he had lost his own, and he had thought that he had found it with Cloud and Tifa. But the swordsman had kept them all at a distance, Tifa even more than him and Marlene. Denzel just couldn't stand to see Tifa so sad anymore.

"Mom?"

"Yes Denzel?"

"Can we take a trip somewhere? Just you and me?" he asked her.

Tifa looked at the boy thoughtfully. "Well, we'd have to wait and talk to Cloud about it—"

"No," said Denzel abruptly. "Just the two of us… without Cloud."

Tifa cleared her throat and looked into her adoptive son's eyes, so blue and similar to Cloud's. She knew that her arguments with Cloud back during the Geostigma crisis had been taking their toll on Marlene and Denzel and she had really tried to make things better. Then Cloud had left and the children had tried to make her smile whenever she was sad. It had been amazing how two children could worry about her feelings more than their own. Afterward the crisis had ended, Cloud had been a little bit more open and he had returned to live with them. Then Marlene had left with her father, and Denzel had seemed to have a bit of trouble adjusting to being alone in the bar.

Cloud was his hero, but Tifa couldn't help but notice that Denzel was disappointed in the man, even though he still admired Cloud's strength. Her opinion didn't matter where the children and Cloud's relationship was concerned, but she had been disappointed in Cloud too. Even though he was around only slightly more than before, their relationship had been suspended in some type of void. She knew that he was attracted to her to some degree, she hadn't missed the way his eyes followed her around the bar when he thought she wasn't looking, but he never made a move and he never spoke about it to her. Maybe it would do both her and Denzel some good to put some distance between them and Cloud.

Tifa nodded once. "You're about to get a month of vacation from school. How about I make arrangements for Barret and Cid to watch over the bar and you and me can spend three weeks in Costa del Sol?" she asked brightly, liking the idea more and more as she thought about it. "We can ask Reeve to let us borrow the cottage by the beach he told us about."

Denzel nodded and returned the smile. "That's great!" he exclaimed, realizing that his vacation started in a week.

The brunette grinned at the boy's happiness and walked off to get the phone to call Reeve. "Maybe we should invite Marlene to go with us too," she called.

"Yeah. I think she would like that," Denzel said as he went back to his homework. He just hoped that they could work something out to leave. He really did think that Tifa needed some time away from Cloud and the bar. She deserved a vacation from everything that made her tired and sad. He couldn't wait to see Marlene again, since it had been almost a month since the last time they had seen each other.

………

Tifa sat on her bed and brushed out her long hair, trying mightily not to let her thoughts wander to Cloud, the way they always seemed to do when it was late at night and everything was quiet. The bar was closed and clean, and she had tucked in Denzel before taking a nice hot shower. Cid and Shera would be taking care of the bar for a week and a half while Barret and Elmyra would take care of it for the other half of the time that she, Denzel, and Marlene would be at Costa.

They would be leaving in two days and had yet to let Cloud know, though she really hoped that he didn't make it in time for her to tell him face to face. She was being a coward and she knew it, but somehow telling him that they were going away without him wasn't something she really wanted to do. Tifa knew that he was trying to change, at least a little, but she was tired of waiting for him to do it. It seemed like all of her time had been invested in waiting for Cloud. Waiting for him to return from SOLDIER, waiting for him to come out of his Mako coma, waiting for him to get over Aerith, waiting for him to come home, and worst of all, waiting for him to notice her.

Her hopes had been dying little by little from the moment they had moved to Edge and had opened Seventh Heaven. He didn't carry all the guilt he'd had before his battle with Kadaj, but he seemed intent on not noticing that she loved him, and she wasn't about to confess her love to him now. If he didn't want to see it, then she wouldn't show it anymore. She needed to move and she had resolved to accept the next man who asked her out on a date. Well, as long as it was someone she knew.

Unfortunately for Tifa, she heard the roar of Fenrir outside of her window and then the sound of creaking doors as Cloud placed his bike in the garage and locked it securely. It was past midnight, and that meant that he was earlier than most nights when he returned, but his trip had been cut short since he was now home. She dried the still damp tips of her hair and sat in her warm bed, pulling out a photo album from her nightstand.

The little album held pictures of all of her dear friends, including those who were now gone. The first few were of Biggs, Wedge, Jesse, and Aerith in individual shots and group pictures. Following those images were some of Cloud and the rest of them, when he had been more open and outgoing thanks to Zack's personality. In those, Vincent wasn't present, but the ones that followed included Reeve and the silent gunman, which had been taken after their fight with Sephiroth's remnants.

Then there were some pictures of the children with her and Cloud, and just one lone image of Cloud on his own. He was a very handsome man and he was very hard to capture on film. The newest ones had been taken at the celebration after Omega's defeat and in many of those, Tifa had caught Vincent and Yuffie together, either sharing a drink or sharing a private look. Cloud was also there, and in one she had managed to catch him smirking at her.

Tifa gazed at the picture for a long moment and wondered how much different her life would be had Cloud ever noticed her. Would they be married and with children? Would he love her more than he loved Aerith or could it be that he had never loved her the way Tifa had thought? She held so many doubts in her mind but none of them were clear because Cloud hadn't talked to her in years really. She set down the photo album and curled up in her warm blankets, trying to clear her head of all the questions that would probably never be answered.

Cloud stared at Tifa's door after trudging up the stairs. Her light had been off when he had returned and he didn't want to wake her but he had missed her the past few days he had been gone. She may not have noticed that he did, but then really, he had never given her any indication that he cared for her beyond friendship. Tifa was the reason he kept coming back to Edge. If she hadn't existed, he would've been long gone from the place and wouldn't have looked back. But she was here and he didn't have the courage to tell her that he cared for her so much more than as a friend.

He couldn't express what he felt for her in words. How thankful he was that she had stuck around to help him and to be his strength when he had felt he didn't have any. He had left her and the children when he had contracted geostigma in order to not hurt them or force them to watch him die. He hadn't been able to handle the fact that Denzel had been dying too, so he had walked away from them. He knew that he had hurt Tifa, but he also knew that had she had to watch him die, it would've been so much worse. But here he was, thanks to Aerith and Zack, but he couldn't bring himself to close the distance he had forced between himself and Tifa.

Vincent had listened to him talk about all that he had done and of the fact that he thought the world of Tifa. The silent gunman had told him to start by strengthening his friendship with Tifa before it was too late. He hadn't elaborated on that and Cloud had been slightly confused regarding what he had meant. He was still confused but Yuffie had explained it quite bluntly to him. Tifa would find another man who could tell her he loved her openly if he didn't make a move soon to fix what Cloud had broken. Cloud hadn't even been aware that Yuffie had been in Vincent's house at the moment and when he had questioned the gloomy man, he had merely smirked and shrugged.

The blond had felt shock run through him at the thought of his two friends together, but he hadn't shown it or commented on how strange a couple they made. If Vincent—the man who had carried his burdens and 'sins' for more than thirty years—could find happiness in his complete opposite, why was it so hard for Cloud Strife to do the same? Tifa had been his friend since they had been children, or at least he considered her to be his friend even though she hadn't spoken much to him before that night on the well. She had always been nice and sweet to him, even when the other kids had bullied him and called him names. He had known her for many years now.

All the torture he had suffered at the hands of Hojo had been bearable when he thought of Tifa, at least in those few seconds when he was allowed to think after the pain and drug haze would be lifted from his mind. Following Zack and his escape from the lab, he couldn't remember much, including the years that followed until he and Tifa had fallen into the lifestream and he had realized that all his thoughts and memories had not been his own. The guilt of stealing the life of his friend and then of not being able to save Aerith had sent him into a deeper void. He had pushed Tifa away and in the process severed their friendship.

She had forgiven him for what he had put her and the children through, but still she was distant. He had to resign himself to watch her from a distance, making sure that she was safe and that no one posed any danger to her. He did feel lighter after the burdens had been lifted from his shoulders, but old habits died hard and he just couldn't find a way to get closer to Tifa. And while he couldn't close the distance between them, they got farther and farther apart each day. Yuffie was right, if he didn't do something, she would find someone who could give her what she wanted and needed.

Cloud sighed to himself and stepped away from her door, walking off to his own. Just the thought of Tifa with another man made him sick to the stomach, but there wasn't anyone who would dare hit on Tifa while he was around, and that much made Cloud relax a little. But there would be a man who wouldn't care that the beautiful bartender had a bodyguard who carried around a huge sword that split into separate—extra sharp—pieces. Cloud wouldn't hesitate to cut a man into many pieces where Tifa was concerned. Even though he had forced a distance between them, Cloud was very protective of her and he wouldn't feel guilt at defending her through any means necessary.

As he pulled off his clothes and headed for his shower, Cloud took a moment to glare at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Sometimes he hated the man who stared back at him because he was incapable of expressing all that he had inside. He barely even smiled. This hadn't been the man he had wanted to become when he had left Tifa behind in Nibleheim. He had wanted to be someone better for her, but had only accomplished to grow up into a broken man with mixed memories and who was emotionally stunted. He had to do something to change all of that. He had to talk to Tifa before it was too late and she found someone else to worry about.

Cloud tried a smile in front of the mirror and was a tad shocked to see how much his face changed. He looked younger and it lit up his eyes. He hmph'd to himself and wiped the smile off his face. He wasn't the smiling type and probably never would be, but that didn't mean that he didn't want to be happy with the most important person in his life. He was tired of waiting too. Waiting for his brain to catch up with his heart, waiting to work up the courage to tell Tifa that he felt for her more than just friendship. He had loved Aerith like a friend and had realized that the part that he had thought had been in love with her, had been the part of Zack that he had imbedded in himself. It had taken him years to realize that, but at least he had.

Tomorrow he would work out some sort of plan at trying to get Tifa to notice him. He just hoped it wasn't too late.

…………………………

Tifa sighed to herself as she sipped her coffee and read the morning paper. She had always been an early riser, but that didn't mean that she was always in a good mood in the morning. That was one reason why the bar was opened at twelve in the afternoon. She was sometimes too cranky to deal with drunks or men who wanted to hit on her. She was dunking a donut into her coffee when she heard Cloud come down the stairs, ready to make his deliveries for the day. He gave her a very tiny smile that had Tifa doubting her eyes as she watched him.

"Morning," he said.

"Good morning," said Tifa, standing and placing the box of donuts in front of him. "Would you like some coffee?" she asked, pouring herself a bit more in her cup.

"Sure," said Cloud, sitting down at the table in front of where she had been. He could afford a few minutes to spend with her before he left. "Thanks," he said as she handed him the hot cup. He scooped some sugar in and poured a healthy amount of creamer so that it was the perfect shade of light brown. Tifa sat down again and looked at him strangely. He began to fidget and grabbed a donut to busy himself and so he didn't have to look her in the eye. Why was she giving him that look? "What?" he asked finally.

"You don't usually sit down to have coffee with me. Is there something you need to talk about?" she asked with a frown.

"No," he said, feeling slightly insulted that she thought something was wrong with him if he sat with her for a few minutes. "I just… wanted to spend a few minutes with you," he said, feeling his cheeks color slightly.

Tifa smiled slightly and nodded, offering no comment. Then she remembered that she hadn't yet told him about her impending three-week trip with Denzel. She cleared her throat until he looked at her. His eyes had always been one of his best features and the look in them now was making her slightly nervous. "I hadn't found the time to tell you that Denzel, Marlene, and I are going on a trip for three weeks," she started.

"Really?" he asked, not really realizing that he hadn't been a part of the plans. "Where?"

Tifa nibbled on her lip and set down her coffee cup. She had realized as well that he hadn't yet caught on to the fact that he wasn't going with them. "We're going to Costa del Sol. We leave… tomorrow. I've made arrangements with Barret and Cid and they'll watch over the bar while I'm gone," she said, going for cheerful and trying not to look guilty.

Cloud nodded, wondering why she had waited so long to let him know that she would be gone for so long. "Well, that's great. How about I catch up with you guys later?" he asked with a small frown.

"Don't worry about us Cloud, we'll be fine by ourselves. I know that you can't cancel the deliveries for the next three weeks, so we'll just go by ourselves," she said with a smile, standing to wash out her mug and so she wouldn't have to see his reaction at not being invited on their trip.

The swordsman watched her for a moment and frowned to himself again. Had he not been even considered to accompany them on this trip? What the hell? Tifa always included him in everything she did with the kids, even after Marlene had left and it had only been her and Denzel. Had she… had she found someone else to go with? Was he too late in realizing that Tifa wouldn't for him forever? He stood abruptly and made his way to the door. "I hope you enjoy your trip," he said before he was gone.

Tifa stared at the door in consternation. Had she hurt his feelings when she had told him that he hadn't been wanted at their trip? Well, she hoped she hadn't because she hadn't done it with the intention of making him feel bad. But now she felt bed and it was either please Denzel, or please Cloud. Denzel was the child so he won. Speaking of her adoptive son, he was dragging his feet down the stairs and his hair was a mess. She smirked to herself and offered him some milk which he accepted.

"Thanks," he muttered, taking a cinnamon roll bigger than his hand from the box of donuts. "Where's Cloud?" he asked.

The brunette sighed. "He just left. Denny, I told him about our trip and I think he felt bad that we weren't taking him," she said ruefully.

Denzel matched her guilty look. "He'll go on the next trip," he said with a small shrug. "Marlene and I agree that you need to have a small vacation," he said matter-of-factly.

Tifa smiled at the boy's words and was thankful that he and Marlene were so considerate of her. She sighed to herself and hoped that Cloud didn't take this too bad. She really didn't want to hurt his feelings, but the kids were right, she needed some time alone and distance from the one person who had always hurt her without even realizing it.

………

"This is great!" Marlene cheered as she and Denzel raced to the shore of the beach behind the small place that Reeve owned and had happily loaned them. "I love the ocean and I can't remember the last time I was so close to water like this."

Tifa smiled to herself as she watched the two kids toeing off their shoes and socks and then running into the water. They were at a bit of a distance from downtown Costa del Sol but there were neighboring cottages close by. "Why don't you change into your bathing suits and get some sunscreen on so that you can go swimming?" she asked Denzel and Marlene.

Both children nodded and raced into the house to unpack their things and to get changed for a day in the water. Tifa wasn't really in a swimming mood, but she did change out of her usual leather clothes and into a pretty, white sundress with thin shoulder straps and a flowing skirt. It was perfect for the warm weather and she felt more feminine in that dress. She followed the kids back outside to the beach and sat under a table with a large umbrella casting shade.

After about two hours of watching her adoptive kids, she had them go back into the house to shower and change into normal clothing so that they could go get something to eat and then to the supermarket to get some food to fill the empty refrigerator. They stopped by a restaurant that made Italian food and had a good lunch. "Did you know that there's a zoo here too?" asked Marlene with a smile.

"Well," Tifa started. "Depending on how you guys behave the next few days, we may go on the weekend," she said as the kids cheered. As they finished their food, Tifa took a look around the square, taking in the tourists and the people shopping, and a very red head of hair. She sighed to herself and saw Reno and Rude striding past a sunglass cart where the bald Turk took a moment to peruse.

Reno was the one who spotted her as she tried to look inconspicuous and blend into the other patrons, but really, her hair always gave her away too. Not many people had seen hair as dark and as well kept as hers, not to mention that the strands were getting rather long again. The Turk said something to his partner and they walked over to them at the table.

"What a coincidence for us to find you here!" said Reno, and the tone in his voice made Tifa think twice about actually believing him. But what motive would Reno have behind following her to Costa del Sol?

"How are you two doing?" she asked them with a smile.

"We're enjoying our paid vacation," he said cheerily. "We've already been to the Golden Saucer and Junon—which happens to have the best slots in the world, and we decided to come here to get a tan. I'm looking rather pasty, so I need it, but my buddy here doesn't."

Rude just grunted and shifted next to Reno. Tifa smiled slightly and stood to pay the check. "Sorry that we can't invite you to eat with us, but we're already finished. Maybe next time," she said as she guided the children towards the exit.

The Turks followed her and Tifa wondered what they wanted. She had a feeling that behind the shades, Rude was watching her. She wasn't uncomfortable, but she was a little nervous. She had known that he had harbored a crush on her for some time, but she had never really given it any thought. Maybe now was the time. "You know," she found herself saying. "If you two help me with the groceries, I may be persuaded to cook some steaks for dinner."

Reno's mouth watered at the mere thought and he jumped at the idea, knowing full well that even if Rude didn't want to, he would go with Reno just to be close to Tifa. Really now, this was his chance to play cupid for his best friend and their one time enemy. Tifa needed a good man in her life and Spike was taking too damn long. Reno was the type of man who agreed with the saying 'you snooze, you lose,' and unfortunately for Cloud, he had snoozed for a very long time.

Meanwhile, Marlene and Denzel were sharing a look as they were ignored by the Turks. Denzel wasn't an idiot when it came to girls. He knew what that look on Rude's face meant. He liked Tifa and was now realizing that maybe he did have a chance with her. Marlene shook her head slightly and tried to think of something that would keep Tifa away from that man. They knew that Cloud liked her and that he only needed a push to finally make a move, but they hadn't been counting on another man showing up while Cloud took his sweet time in gathering his courage.

"We have to see where this is going first," muttered Marlene as she and Denzel walked ahead of Tifa and the Turks. "Maybe she won't let him make a move on her and we're just imagining things. She can't have gotten over Cloud so quickly."

Denzel shrugged. "If she has, I can't say I blame her. Cloud has done nothing but make her sad. Maybe we should let her find someone else," he said with a heavy sigh.

"Can you really picture your mom with a Turk? We don't even know him. If he and Tifa get serious and then he moves into the bar, she'll have to kick out Cloud. What do you think about that?" she asked him smartly.

Denzel scowled. She was right and she knew it. "Okay. What do you propose we do?" he asked.

"Call in some back up," said Marlene as if it were the most obvious idea. At Denzel's blank look, she huffed out a breath. "Yuffie, you dunce. She'll know what to do and we can have her tell Cloud about Tifa and this guy if anything does happen."

He grinned evilly. He had always liked Yuffie because together they could come up with the best pranks known to mankind, and their victims always varied. Marlene was right in calling in back-up. So now they had a plan, all they had to do was bide their time in order to see if they were overreacting.

As Cid wiped down the bar counter for the third time in the last ten minutes his gaze moved to the young swordsman nursing a drink for almost an hour now. The pilot chewed on a toothpick, since Tifa had banded him from smoking inside the bar, and looked thoughtful for a moment. "What's on your mind kid?" he asked Cloud finally.

The blond looked up at him with an expressionless face. "Nothing," he said with a heavy sigh. "I'm just tired, I guess."

"You missin' Tifa?" asked Cid boldly.

Cloud's eyes snapped to meet his and then narrowed. "No," he snapped, and to both men it sounded like a bold-faced lie. "Besides, she's just a friend."

"Do you want her to be more than that?" Cid was only getting warmed up at beating down Cloud with his words. If it was the only way for the fool to realize just what was in front of him, well too bad.

Cloud looked down at his drink and shrugged. "Don't know. All I've ever done is push her away from me. Why would she want to be with me now?" he asked quietly, thankful that for the moment, the bar was a bit empty. Though Tifa had been gone on her vacation for almost a week and most men came to Seventh Heaven for her, they were still coming in now while she was gone. The rush hadn't yet started, since the sun was barely setting.

"Tifa's a sweet girl, Spike. She wants a real family with a real man. If you're not up to the challenge, let her go. But if you know for certain that you can make her happy, I say you go after her," Cid said seriously.

"I offered to catch up with them later on and she shot me down," Cloud snapped.

"Look kid, if I've learned anything about women—and believe me, with Shera in the house I have—it is that when they say one thing, they something completely different. They don't tell you that they mean something else, but they expect you to know," the older man replied.

Cloud looked confused at his words. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

The pilot shrugged. "But it's true. Either you gather your courage and follow them to Costa, or you wallow in your self-pity here and wait for another man to make his move on her. Then you'll be out of her life for good."

That was the most backward logic he had ever heard about women. But he didn't know what to do. Maybe if he did go after Tifa, she would see that he was serious about spending time with her. His first plan had been a bust—since it had basically been about him asking her out on a date. He hadn't even gotten the chance to tell her because she had been leaving on her vacation with the kids. Now another man, who had once upon a time had had absolutely no knowledge of women and how to treat them, was telling him what to do and he sounded sure of himself.

"I'll have to postpone a few deliveries in order to catch up to Tifa and the kids. But Cid… I'm going to hold you responsible if this all backfires," Cloud said as he downed his drink in one gulp and stood to go to his room.

"You'll thank me on your wedding day!" the pilot called before the other man was out of earshot. He threw a few lighthearted curses at the people looking over in curiosity and went back to cleaning the bar. He knew that Cloud and Tifa would eventually find each other, but there was no harm in pushing them in the right direction, right?

……………

So far, so good, Tifa thought as she gazed at the shining stars above the ocean. The children were asleep and she had a moment to herself. She was enjoying the scenery with a good glass of wine and a soft, warm shawl around her shoulders. A few days had gone by already and almost every day she saw Reno and Rude. She didn't mind their company one bit. Reno wasn't a complete womanizer and he had some very interesting views on the history of the planet. Rude spoke much less than his friend, but Tifa was glad that she had heard more than one word leave his mouth since they had been visiting.

When the Turks weren't around, she spent most of her time with Marlene and Denzel, and so far they had visited the zoo, the aquarium, and a water park, and she was sure they would go again in the next two weeks thanks to the passes they had bought. But really, since the Turks had been coming by to visit, she had noticed the kids acting strange. Sometimes they went outside to talk to each other, and there had been times when Tifa swore that her cell phone would go missing for hours at a time. She just hoped that her monthly bill did not arrive with long distance calls to Wutai and Gongaga or something.

She took another sip of her wine and looked up when she spotted someone familiar at the shore. She placed her glass of wine down and walked slowly towards Rude as he stood waiting for her. She smiled slightly and felt a little strange standing there alone with him. She hadn't ever really had a relationship with any man between training when she was young, then joining Avalanche, and then taking care of the bar and the orphaned children of Edge. This was all new territory and her heart still wished that she would've had the chance to share her first real relationship with Cloud.

"It's a beautiful night," said Rude.

Tifa nodded. "It is. I was enjoying now, before I went to bed." She paused and wondered why she felt as if she were betraying Cloud by being alone with another man. "What brings you here at this hour?" she asked softly.

"You," he said honestly. Tifa felt her cheeks color as she managed a shy smile. "It's always been you who makes me come back to your bar," he said in a quiet tone. He was perfectly aware that she could pulverize his skull with her fists, but he wanted to know if she would be open to a man other than Cloud coming into her life.

Tifa cleared her throat. "I… I don't know what to say to that," she replied.

"How about you say nothing and I… I ask you if I may kiss you? Then we'll work from there," Rude said seriously.

Tifa found that she had just lost her voice and managed a nod when he took of his shades—had he walked in the darkness with his sunglasses on?—and placed them inside his coat. She closed her eyes when Rude moved forward and kissed her gently. His touch was soft and Tifa could admit to herself that she was enjoying it. She had vaguely wondered if he would try to stick his tongue down her throat, but he was keeping it chaste and sweet; two words she never would've associated with a Turk. She kept her hands to herself but didn't object when she felt his large hand cup her cheek. She was just thankful that no one was around to witness her moment with Rude, since she was still quite confused about it herself. At least she thought no one had been watching.

"Oh Holy Leviathan," gasped Yuffie as she threw herself backwards. She would've fallen and smacked the back of her head on the pavement had it not been for the arms wrapped securely around her.

"We should go home. I do not think this is any of our business," said Vincent as he pushed Yuffie to stand upright.

"Not our business? Not our business?!" she hissed angrily. "That should be Cloud smooching on her, not Rude!" Yuffie said as she walked away from the backyard of Reeve's place in a huff. "Marlene and Denzel knew something fishy was going on and they were right. Now, what I have to do is call Cloud and have him get his scrawny ass down here as soon as possible. He can't lose his girl to a Turk!"

Vincent merely sighed and followed the ninja as they began to walk away. She had been adamant about barging into the cottage Tifa and the children were occupying, but he had convinced her that they were probably asleep. But then he couldn't stop her from attempting to break in anyway, and had only followed her as a safety precaution. He had been as shocked as Yuffie to see Tifa being kissed by a man who had not been Cloud, but really, there was nothing to be done. If she had moved on, who were they to keep her stranded in the past when it was obvious that it wasn't doing her any good? Besides, she had done enough waiting and she was a beautiful woman who deserved some happiness, even if it meant that she would find it at the hands of a Turk.

Vincent left his thoughts and realized that Yuffie was still ranting and she would most likely wake up the children at any moment. He looked around the side of the cottage and spotted a shed not so far away. He placed a hand over her mouth and dragged her towards it. Once inside and after making sure that they would both fit without any bodily harm, he let her go, ignoring the glare of seven deaths she was sending him. "Do I need to find another creative way of getting you to stay quiet and see reason once again?"

Yuffie said nothing as she crossed her arms over her chest. Then his lips were on hers and thoughts of sabotaging any type of relationship Tifa had with a man who wasn't Cloud flew out the window. All she knew was that Vincent could do wonderful things with his mouth and that a small shed was not the best place to be doing those type of things.

Nearly an hour later and with a very raw lip thanks to her biting down on it, Yuffie stormed out of the shed angrily. Vincent walked out a few seconds later, looking more composed than his ninja, who was walking strangely. "I think I have sand in my friggin' shorts," she grumbled to herself. "You may have managed to not make me call Cloud right now, but I'm going to call him tomorrow no matter what you say," she called to Vincent as they walked towards the hotel they had checked in a few hours before.

Vincent had no doubt that she would, so he did not bother talking her out of it. He just hoped that Yuffie didn't turn the situation into a big deal, which he knew she always tended to, so there's was no getting out of the situation.

Yuffie darted out of the hotel room she had been sharing with Vincent like the ninja that she was, jumping down from the second floor balcony and hitting the ground lightly. Vincent had warned her about calling Cloud and butting into the situation, but she just couldn't let down the kids and Cloud himself. They had to do something to stop Tifa from making a big mistake. So that was how she had decided to take Vincent's phone, since hers had mysteriously disappeared, and she had run out of the room when Vincent had gone into the shower.

She dialed Cloud's number but to her chagrin only got his voicemail. She left him a brief message to call her back as soon as possible and proceeded to jog her way to the place Tifa and the kids where staying in. She needed to talk to her friend as soon as possible about what she had seen the night before. Before she knew it, she was in front of the small house and knocking on the door. A few seconds later, Marlene answered the door and threw her arms around her in a tight hug.

"I'm so glad you're here. You need to talk to Tifa about that guy. He's been here almost every day and Denzel and me are starting to worry," the girl said rapidly.

"Don't worry kiddo, The Great Ninja Yuffie will make everything right. I tried calling Cloud, but his voicemail is picking up and I can't get in touch with him to tell him to get down here now," said Yuffie as she walked into the house with Marlene. "Why don't you go off with Denny and I'll talk to Tifa, hmm?"

Marlene nodded and grinned. "I'm so glad you're here. It's up to you to get Tifa and Cloud together," she whispered before she ran off.

Yuffie walked towards the kitchen where she could smell breakfast. She found Tifa already finished with the food and placing it on plates at a small kitchen table. "Morning!" said the ninja cheerfully.

Tifa looked at her with a smile. "Morning, Yuffie. What are you doing here?" she asked.

"Oh, nothing really. Just vacationing here with Vince, visiting a dear friend and wondering what she would have to say about kissing a Turk by the seashore," she said nonchalantly.

Tifa nearly dropped the pan of bacon on the floor and looked at Yuffie with wide eyes. "You saw that?" she asked with a grimace.

"Vincent and I saw it all. He didn't want me to wake you, but I decided to break into the house through the back door and we walked back just in time to see you trading spit with Rude of all people!" Yuffie exclaimed as Tifa shushed her. "Why are you shushing me? If you're dating a man who isn't Cloud, shouldn't the children know about it?"

Tifa let out a heavy sigh and placed the pan on the stove before taking a seat at the table. "I'm not dating him, Yuffie, though that doesn't mean that he hasn't asked me. I just… I'm just tired of waiting for Cloud. If he weren't so oblivious, he would've ignored my words when I told him not to come and he would've been here by now. Besides, I told Rude that I'm not really looking for someone to date."

Yuffie let out a sigh of relief. "So you're not going to let Rude get at you anymore?"

Tifa shook her head. "I must be a fool, but no. After that kiss last night, I realized that though it was nice, it lacked something."

"You mean that it wasn't Cloud?" asked Yuffie smugly.

"Maybe, or maybe he's just not the man I'm looking for. Either way, Rude said he understood and that if I had a change of heart, he would always be there," said Tifa with a sad smile.

Before Yuffie could reply to that, there was a knock at the front door and Tifa stood to answer it as she followed. The ninja just hoped that it wasn't Vincent there to scold her. She really was convinced of what she was doing, he needed to stop treating her like a child. Tifa opened the door and felt her stomach drop to her feet as her auburn eyes met with those of a deep blue.

"Cloud… what are you doing here?" she asked, swallowing hard.

Yuffie had to refrain from jumping into the air and cheering. She wanted to see what Cloud was going to do. As soon as she saw Vincent, she wanted to able to tell him I told you so. She shushed her overactive mind and watched quietly—which was the hardest thing she had ever managed to do.

Cloud stared at Tifa for a moment and then looked away, a slight blush on his cheeks. "I know that you didn't want me to come with you guys, but I… I've missed out on so much time already with you and Denzel, so I came anyway," he said in a quiet voice.

Tifa felt her heart skip a beat. "Did you think I didn't want you to come with us? Oh Cloud, I'm sorry you thought that. I just… I just imagined that you would enjoy your solitude so much more if Denzel and I were far away. I didn't think that you wanted to come with us," she replied.

"Did I do wrong in coming?" he asked her, looking into her eyes.

The brunette shook her head and offered him a sweet smile that had his heart skipping a beat too. "I'm glad you're here, and I know the kids will be happy too."

Cloud nodded once and they stared at each other for a moment longer. Then he let out a slow breath and gathered his courage once more. "Tifa… I wanted to ask you… if you would like to…"

Tifa waited patiently for Cloud to find his words and really hoped that he wasn't working up a marriage proposal. Though she felt something deep for Cloud, she didn't think that they were at that place just yet. She hoped that they did get to that place soon, but meanwhile she could admit to herself that he was cute when he blushed.

"Just ask her out already!" Yuffie yelled, not able to hold it in any longer. "You know that she's going to say yes."

Cloud and Tifa jumped and looked at the ninja, who was smiling that was almost from ear to ear. Marlene and Denzel raced out of the kitchen and dragged off the ninja before she could keep interrupting what could potentially be the best thing that had happened to both Tifa and Cloud. The bartender looked back at the blond man and laughed softly to herself. "Is that what you were trying to ask me?" she asked.

Cloud blushed again and nodded once, managing an embarrassed smile. "Yeah. But Yuffie kinda ruined the moment. Would you be willing to go out tonight?"

Tifa let out a small sigh of relief and nodded, her own cheeks stained a light pink. "Well, I would love to go out with you. All we have to do is get Yuffie to watch the kids."

"You don't even have to ask!" Yuffie called from the kitchen.

Cloud and Tifa shared another smile. "Would you like some breakfast?" she asked him as she moved aside so that he could step in.

"Sure," he said, walking into the small house and smiling slightly when Marlene and Denzel ran over to hug him tightly. "Have you guys been having fun without me?" he asked as he sat at the table, and as far away from Yuffie as possible.

Tifa was about to close the door when a hand stopped her and she looked up with wide eyes to see Vincent. She smiled and opened the door for him wider. "You should've said something. I was about to shut the door in your face."

Vincent only nodded slightly. "Good morning Tifa. Is Yuffie here?"

She nodded and guided him towards the kitchen. "Yes, she's here."

"I hope she did not cause you any grief. She wanted to… call Cloud to tell him to come down here immediately, but I did not let her. I don't believe that this is our battle," he said with a faint smirk.

Tifa shook her head. "Don't worry about it. Yuffie's a great friend, even with all of her farfetched ideas. I'm glad she's here because who else would help me for the date I have with Cloud tonight," she whispered with a giddy smile.

Vincent's eyes widened slightly. "A… date?"

"Yes. He came down here all on his own and asked me to go out with him," said Tifa before they entered the kitchen.

"Congratulations," Vincent whispered as his eyes landed on his sneaky ninja. She gave him a wide smile and pranced over to wrap her arms around his waist in a hug. "I seem to be missing my phone," he said flatly.

"Well, give me mine and I'll give you yours," she said, eyeing him darkly. "You should know by now that you can't outsmart a ninja. So cough up the phone or you'll never see yours again," she said, her smug grin falling when she saw that he was clipping his cell phone to the holster on his belt.

"You're not the only one with quick hands," he said with an amused smirk.

Yuffie huffed and grabbed Tifa's arm before pulling her towards the door. "You haven't seen the last of me!" she yelled before she slammed the door closed after her and the bewildered bartender.

"Yuffie, I didn't even get to have my coffee," said Tifa in annoyance.

"Yeah, yeah, I'll buy you one at the restaurant in our hotel. Then we'll go look for what you will wear tonight and it'll all be courtesy of Vincent," she said evilly.

"Are you sure you want to do that?" Tifa asked as they began to walk towards Costa del Sol's central district.

"Of course I'm sure. He has more than enough money, and he needs to pay up for trying to outsmart me. No one, but no one outsmarts Yuffie Kisaragi!" she said, striking a pose that had Tifa wishing that they hadn't been walking side by side. People were staring, and not the good kind of staring. "Come on Teefs, we need to find you something that will have Cloud drooling all over you," she said as she dragged her friend towards the hotel again.

……

Cloud was trying not to feel uncomfortable as he sat at the kitchen table in silence. Marlene, Denzel, and Vincent—who was standing by the back door in silence—were watching him. He felt like a bug under a microscope and Tifa was taking her sweet time to get ready for their date. The children had insisted that he needed to wear different clothing on such a special night, so while Tifa and Yuffie had been out, they had gone to a nearby department store to get him something suitable to wear. That was how he found himself in a pair of black dress pants and a navy blue dress shirt that brought out his eyes, or so the saleswoman had told him. He felt slightly uncomfortable, but he realized that he wanted his first date with Tifa to be a night that she would remember forever.

He saw the smiles on the children's faces before he saw Tifa, but when he did, he was glad that he was sitting down. She looked beautiful in a simple sky blue dress with thin straps over her shoulders. The material seemed to hug her soft curves and made her eyes look more brown than mahogany. Her long hair was held up on one side and with the tips curling and she looked so different from herself. She was beautiful, but he much preferred his Tifa, the one who wore leather and who was radiant even when she looked tired and disheveled after a busy day.

"Say something!" Marlene stage whispered.

Yuffie grinned and walked over to wrap her arms around Vincent's middle as he gave her a small smile. "It took a lot of convincing but she finally got the dress. Doesn't she look pretty?" the ninja asked her gunman. He just nodded once and watched as Cloud stood and floundered around for something articulate to say.

"We should take the children away so that they can be alone," Vincent said quietly. At Yuffie's nod, they both ushered Marlene and Denzel away, leaving the other two adults alone.

"You look very handsome," Tifa complimented as Cloud still struggled with his words.

"You too," he blurted, blushing when he realized what he had said. "I mean… you look beautiful, Tifa."

She smiled and thanked him as they walked out the back door and towards the main street. She didn't know where they were going, but she trusted Cloud to make this a night to be cherished and remembered. She hadn't been able to squelch the butterflies that had been fluttering in her stomach the entire day every time she realized that she was going on a date with Cloud. "Where are we going?" she asked after a few minutes of walking in silence.

"To get an early dinner, and maybe afterwards we can go down to the pier," he said quietly, watching her out of the corner of his eye as she smiled slightly.

"That sounds like a good plan," she said as they arrived at a small restaurant that overlooked the ocean and had a cozy setting for couples. They ordered their food and ate in the same near silence of their walk towards the restaurant and Tifa was beginning to wonder if things would work out between them if the first date was any indication. She didn't want to be negative, but she realized that if things really did go down the drain, she would already be resigned to accept it.

Cloud for his part was beyond scared that he would screw up his one and only chance to prove to Tifa that she meant more to him than just a friend. But he didn't know what to say to her, and he was starting to notice that she was drawing away from him. If he didn't do something quick, he would lose her for good. As they resumed their walk towards the pier with its carnival rides and snack booths and bright lights, Cloud let out a heavy sigh and turned to Tifa as the wind blew through her dark, beautiful hair.

"Can I ask you a question, Tifa?" he asked as they came to the end of the pier and gazed out at the dark ocean now that the sun had set. At her nod, he let out a sigh and turned to look into her dark eyes. "Why didn't you want me to come with you?"

Tifa swallowed hard. "I thought we had discussed this already," she muttered.

"But I didn't really believe you. Did you really want to give me space, or did you need space from me?" he asked her seriously. "I know I've done many foolish things that have hurt you—"

"No, Cloud, you haven't—"

"Let me finish, Teef. I know I've hurt you. I've been an oblivious idiot for most of my life, and I remember how it felt when… when we were kids and you spent most of your times with your friends, ignoring me, though later on you were the one who spoke to me first. I remember what it was like to be alone and I realized that you felt the same way when I was gone. I'm sorry it took me so long to see it," he said, taking her hand in his and giving it a squeeze. "I wanted tonight to be a memorable night for us both, but it hasn't turned out the way I wanted it to."

Tifa smiled and squeezed his hand back. "We were off to a rocky start, but hearing you say that you understand how I've felt is making up for it. Besides, I'm on a date with Cloud Strife," she said with a grin. "The twice savior of this world. How could you say that this isn't a memorable night?"

Cloud managed a small smile at her words and didn't bother to stop his ego from inflating at her words. He really had wanted to make this a good night for her, and he knew that even though she was saying that it was, he knew that she was lying. Before he could say another word, there was a clap of thunder and small rain drops started to fall on all of the people still enjoying the pier. He looked to Tifa and let out a heavy sigh. "And to make the night even worse for you, it's raining," he muttered.

"Cloud," Tifa said in an admonishing tone. "You don't have to turn this into a tragedy. It's just a good thing that I didn't wear any make-up," she said as they began to walk back towards the main street. She knew Cloud had always had a hard time expressing himself, but he looked upset that the night hadn't gone the way he wanted it to. Despite their silent dinner and the fact that it was now raining, this was going to be a memorable night. Maybe it was time for her to make it more memorable for him. She stopped halfway down the pier and turned to him, raindrops coming down a little harder. "Well then, why don't I help this along and make it more memorable?" she asked with a grin.

Cloud gave her a strange look. "How would you do that when it's raining?" he asked, hoping that they didn't end up with a cold to make matters even worse.

Tifa said nothing, but she smiled before leaning forward and pressing her lips gently to his. She felt him freeze and tried not to felt self-conscious when he didn't respond. Just as she began to draw back, his hands slipped around her waist and he pulled her closer, his lips sliding against hers in the sweetest kiss she had ever received. This kiss was nothing like the one she had shared with Rude. Though that one had been nice, this kiss with Cloud was all that she had ever longed to feel. If he kept on insisting that the night was a bust after this, well she didn't know what else she could do. Despite the rain that soaking them, she was going to remember and cherish this night for the rest of her life, just the way Cloud had wanted her to.

"Tifa," he murmured against her lips as they pulled back for breath. He moved a hand up to cup her cheek before kissing her with more heat.

She smiled against his lips and smoothed the raindrops from his cool skin. "Do you still think that this night isn't memorable?"

Cloud smirked and entwined their hands as they stood there for a moment longer. "I think I'm going to dream of this night for the rest of my life," he stated.

Tifa laughed gently and jumped slightly at the clap of thunder that sounded above them. "We should get back," she said, releasing one of his hands, but keeping the other entwined with her own fingers. It was a nice feeling, to finally be able to touch him this way.

They finally arrived back at the small cottage after a walk that had been twice as long than when they had left. They just couldn't resist to stop and kiss each other every few steps. But now they were in a house with children and their friends, so the kisses would be toned down. They toed off their shoes and Tifa walked over to get them some towels before they checked on the children, who were sound asleep even with the storm. Then they changed into dry clothes and towel dried their hair as they walked to the living room, noting that Vincent and Yuffie were occupying one of the guest rooms and that everything was quiet.

"I do hope Yuffie and Vincent kept this place G-rated," said Tifa as she brought out some pillows and a large warm blanket.

Cloud made an amused noise and nodded before sitting down on the couch and watching as Tifa fixed up the opposite one for him to use as a bed. When she was done, he stood and couldn't resist kissing her again, earning a startled 'eep' from her. She smiled against his lips and gently pushed him back.

"You should go to sleep," she said softly.

"Stay with me," Cloud said abruptly; his mouth speaking without his brain's permission. "The couch is more than enough and you're almost shivering with the cold," he stated, rubbing her cool arms for effect.

Tifa looked into those blue eyes that almost glowed in the dark and watched him as he lay down on the couch, patting the spot in front of him. She was just thankful that the dark living room could hide her blush at the thought of sleeping with him, no matter how chaste it would be. She then made up her mind and slipped into the spot next to him, shivering slightly when his arm slipped around her waist and pulled her closer to him. They snuggled in the warm blanket and Tifa kissed him shyly as he touched her face.

"Where do we go from here?" she asked him.

"Wherever you want us to go," he replied, pressing his forehead to hers and running a thumb over her cheek.

"I was getting tired of waiting, Cloud," she admitted. "But I don't want to ruin things by moving too fast."

He nodded and kissed her gently. "I know what you mean, but whatever you decide to do, I will agree to it because I don't want to lose you."

Tifa smiled and wrapped her arms around him in a hug. She wouldn't mind waiting now that she had him in her life and in her arms the way she had dreamed of for so long. Though she had waited years and years for this moment, it was all the more sweeter now that he had admitted that he wanted to be a part of her life. He was healing and Tifa was happy that she had decided to wait for him, otherwise she would've possibly ended up with the wrong person in her life.

Cloud sighed against her and hugged her tighter when she turned her back to his chest. He was happy too, that the night hadn't been a complete downer. Though he had been convinced that he had somehow screwed up his chances to be with Tifa, she had proven once again that she had a heart of gold. He didn't know what he would've done if she had gotten tired of waiting for him. But she was here in his arms now and he would do all in his power to make it up to her for making her wait for him for so long. He would make her happy if it was the last thing he did.

As the pair drifted off to sleep, they were unaware that they were being spied on by two kids and a nosey ninja. Yuffie grinned happily and ruffled Denzel's messy hair. "Yay!" she cheered quietly. "They're finally together guys. First thing tomorrow morning, we're calling the gang to tell them the news."

Marlene smiled and clung to Denzel's arm in happiness. She had hoped that Tifa and Cloud would get together soon. They both deserved to be happy together after all the things they had gone through. "Now you'll have a real family and pretty soon they'll get married and have babies together too," she said with a girlish squeal.

Denzel grimaced. He didn't know how he felt about babies just yet, but Cloud and Tifa getting together was great. As he tried to ignore the girls as they talked about weddings and children and everything else, a tall shadow fell over them.

Vincent crossed his arms over his chest and settled his small glare on Yuffie. "It's not polite to spy on people," he said quietly.

Marlene dragged Denzel back to their room and left the other two alone. Yuffie shrugged and then grinned when she pointed to Cloud and Tifa who were sound asleep on the couch. Vincent's lips twitched slightly before he nearly dragged Yuffie back to the guest room they had been sharing. "Don't give me that look, Vince," she whined as he closed the door and she latched onto his waist in a tight grip. "Besides, Marley was the one who woke me up and told me to go see with them. Can you tell me that you're immune to that puppy-eyed look?" she asked with a slight pout.

Of course he wasn't, which was why he had gotten stuck with Yuffie in the first place, but Vincent wasn't about to admit that to her. Instead he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back towards the bed without a word. As he pulled the warm blankets over them, she melted into his arms with a content sigh that made him smile. She fell asleep almost instantly, and Vincent took the moment to watch her and admire her youthful beauty and the fact that there was a smile on her face.

He ran a hand through her dark silky hair and sighed. He was glad that he had let her into his life. His hand moved down and settled on the slight bump of her stomach where their child was growing strong and beautiful each day. Yuffie had been patient with him and had waited for him to let go of his sins and to be at peace with himself. Despite what Cid and Barret said about her still being immature, she had handled their relationship better than he had, and for that he was glad. Now she was his life and soon they would hold their baby in their arms. All they had to do was tell the rest of their friends now. He was at peace and he would dare to admit that he was happy. Now Cloud and Tifa would start a life together as well. Everything was working out for the better and it proved that good things came to those who waited.

How was that for a Cloud/Tifa fic? I don't know if I accomplished what I wanted, but this fic made me fairly happy. I love this pairing, though I find it harder to write than Vincent/Yuffie and I can't figure out why. Anyway, I hoped everyone liked it and I don't know if I'll decide to make a sequel to this one too. I'm still thinking, and besides, I'm having a hard time coming up with something creative for Reeve/Yuffie. I don't know why, but I've hit a sort of road block. If anyone has any ideas that they wish to share with me to speed the fic for that pairing along, by all means let me know. Otherwise, I'll just wait for the bulb above my head to light up at any random moment and I don't know how long that will be. Thanks for taking the time to read and if you review, many Cloud and Vincent shaped cookies for you!

Joey

P.S. I just couldn't resist putting in some Vince/Yuffie in the fic. See ya later girls and guys!