A/N: Okay. So, as all you FFVII fans know, Crisis Core came out on Tuesday. I won't get into details, but let's just say that my beta/bff/rival/lifesaver (the link's on my profile) and I had one hell of a time getting the game to play on my TV. XD Anyway, it totally got me on a little mini FFVII kick, and I picked up this fic, which I had started to write on my LAST FFVII obsession. :P But the first time, Krissy basically told me that everything was wrong, so I rewrote it. This is what i have. :)
Tifa giggled mischievously and ran a hand over the jet-black bike, feeling the buttons and pedals with delicate fingers. Her legs straddled over the seat, and her fingers toyed with the ignition as she glanced at the empty road before her. It wouldn't be dangerous. It wouldn't take long. No one would have to know.
Especially not Cloud.
Her hand froze at the thought of Cloud. He had taken Marlene and Denzel to the park to play, and was guaranteed to be gone for at least another hour. He hadn't taken his motorcycle, not after Denzel had fallen from it on one exhilarating ride and Tifa had forbidden him to take either child anywhere on the "death trap". But just because she disapproved of the two kids riding it didn't mean she wasn't allowed to take it out for a spin.
But Cloud would be mad if he found out. She wasn't allowed to touch the keys to his beloved Fenrir unless she was trying to clean the countertop they were sitting on. He never hid them, because he assumed she knew better. And she did: he made the rule quite clear. No driving his motorcycle unless he was there to supervise and had approved of the venture. Which, previous events showed, never happened.
But she could be back at the house before anyone was the wiser. Tifa grinned and turned the key, revving up the engine. The motor made a lot of noise when it first started up, but it was more impressive than anything. As she turned the right handle towards her twice, the engine roared in response, and her grin grew. If Cloud thought he could stop her with a few mere words, he had another thing coming.
The bike was fantastic to ride, smooth and sleek, turning heads as she sped down the street towards the highway. She longed to get to the outskirts of town, but the only safe road—safe meaning it wasn't inhabited by gangs and crooks who wouldn't hesitate to shoot a woman—went right past the park, past Cloud. So she settled for the other highway, in the complete opposite direction. She'd still get to go fast, which was ultimately what she wanted to do.
After only two minutes on the beautiful machine, Tifa understood why Cloud had upgraded from a regular ride. The bike's engine hummed softly underneath her, its power perfectly contained and exquisitely superior to any other vehicle. She almost wanted to find out where Cloud had gotten this bike and buy one for herself. It would be a jab to Cloud's ego—having a girl drive the same motorcycle as he did.
Now on the highway, Tifa decided to see just how fast this thing could go. The road was slightly crowded, as it was noon and people were going out for lunch, but she expertly weaved in and out of those vehicles. The motorcycle accelerated faster than anything she had ever experienced, and Tifa fought to keep the handlebars steady. Navigating became harder as the bike sped along, and Tifa reluctantly took her hand from the lever that allowed the bike to accelerate, sighing as it began to coast. She was still speeding, sliding around cars like a fish through water. When the bike began to lose momentum, Tifa decided that she'd had her fun and began looking for a place to turn around.
Unfortunately, Tifa had just missed the last spot for a U-turn, and now she was stuck driving on the highway for another half hour, even at top speed. She glanced to the side—having settled in a bare area of concrete, with at least a hundred feet between her and the car in front of her—and noticed the return highway, with just a few feet of dirt between the two. She stared at it for another moment and decided. Cloud was always doing crazy stunts with this thing—why couldn't she?
She braked and did a ninety-degree angle turn, accelerating again and making it to the dirt. The car behind her just barely missed nicking the back of the bike, honking its horn as it sped by. Tifa ignored it, having her own problems to deal with. She wasn't used to driving on dirt, and the moment the front tire hit it, it slid. She struggled to regain control of the bike, to get it across those few feet to the other side of the highway, but suddenly the few feet seemed so much further than before. She knew it was a losing battle when the bike started to lean to one side, and quickly leapt off, rolling on the dirt.
The bike, however, skid out of the dirt pathway and into the highway, where another motorcyclist promptly collided head on with it. The rider went flying, landing on his back about ten feet away, and the two bikes literally exploded. Tifa, coughing to clear the dirt from her lungs, stared in horror as Cloud's most prized possession went up in smoke. Other cars screeched to a halt around the mushroom cloud, eager to see more action.
The other rider got to his feet, and Tifa wanted to cry when she saw it was Barret. Now Cloud would have a witness, proof that she had taken and destroyed his motorcycle. Barret noticed her and ran over, holding out his hand to help her up. He only had a few scratches, and Tifa was grateful that she hadn't hurt him too badly.
"Tifa!" Barret scanned her to make sure she hadn't broken any bones. "What the 'ell was that?"
"That?" Tifa dusted off her outfit, feigning nonchalance. "That was Cloud's motorbike."
Barret squinted at the wreckage, "Ya'd never know." The two of them stared at the fiery mess for a moment more before Barret sighed. "Who should we call fer this?" he asked her.
Tifa pinched the bridge of her nose, "God?"
He laughed heartily, entirely too happy for the current situation, "Take 'eart in the idea that I won' press charges."
"Goody," she muttered sarcastically. "And let me guess. Now you can buy a brand new bike with the insurance money."
" 'Course!" Barret folded his arms. "Me brakes were startin' ta fail, anyway."
She stared at him in horror, "Please tell me you didn't take Marlene on that bike recently!"
"I'm not stupid," he rolled his eyes. "Though ya seem ta be."
"Excuse me?" she dared him to elaborate.
Barret held his hand up in the general don't-shoot sign, "Ya're the one who took Cloud's bike. 'E's gonna kill ya."
She groaned and buried her head in her hands. He chuckled and pulled out his cell phone.
"I'm gonna call 'im. Much as I know ya'd prefer me not ta."
"Yeah, yeah," she knew that she would have to answer to Cloud eventually. At least she could enjoy peace for another few minutes, until the blonde found a way to get to the wreck. "Maybe he won't be able to come…" she mused aloud, though she didn't realize Barret was listening with his free ear. "Maybe he can't get a ride out here, since his bike is in that."
"Maybe yellow chocobos fly," Barret snorted.
Tifa groaned again.
Barret was right, as it turned out. Cloud managed to hitch a ride with one of Tifa's regular customers, a jolly man named Jiku who seemed a little too eager to bring about the death of Tifa—or at least that's how she saw it. Cloud leapt out of Jiku's silver car when it pulled to a stop in the dirt median, briefly thanked the elderly man, and rounded on his friends.
"No one's hurt?" he asked, surveying Tifa first before moving to scan Barret. The burly man folded his arm over his gun.
"Ya think I lied ta ya?"
Cloud scowled, "Just making sure." He then glanced around to see the wreckage, which was still flaming. Traffic had started moving again, and luckily people were smart enough to go around it, sticking to the right of the five-lane highway, since the crash was only a lane away from the dirt. He slowly averted his gaze, intense blue eyes instead looking to Tifa. "You did this." It wasn't a question.
She nodded meekly. His scowl deepened, "How?"
"I tried to get across the dirt, and I slid," she hesitated. "I'm sorry, Cloud."
"Why did you do this?" he acted as if he hadn't even heard her apology.
Or it just doesn't matter how much I apologize… she thought to herself. "I… I wanted to see why you liked the bike so much. You were gone, and I was planning on being back before you got home with the kids."
Cloud stared at her levelly for a long time, and she fidgeted under his gaze. Usually it was him who made the irresponsible choices, and she was the one doing the guilt-tripping. It seemed ironic to her how quickly the positions changed.
"So you took my bike without telling me," he said slowly, even though that fact was painfully obvious. It almost seemed as if he had to get a verbal verification that she would do something so negligent.
"And then… crashed it."
She cringed at the word, "Yes."
Cloud's blue eyes flashed, "You realize just how reckless that was?"
Tifa hung her head, ashamed, "Yes," she said for the third time. What had she been thinking, taking Cloud's bike? She couldn't recall the reasons anymore.
He stared at her for a moment more, before grunting and walking towards the wreck. She blinked twice, bemused.
"Is that it?" she wondered aloud.
Barret, who had been standing to the side listening with half-interest, now shrugged, "I guess 'e jus' wan'ed ta make sure ya know not ta do it again," he grinned in amusement as Cloud pulled one of his swords from the black muck. Then his face sobered. "Don't do it again, Tifa," he said in a low voice. "The kids'd be los' without ya."
"I know," Tifa replied wearily.
"But as bad as they'd feel," Barret's dark gaze rested on her own. "Cloud'd be worse off."
Tifa flinched at this idea, and stared miserably at the ground, highly depressed at the risk she had taken. Of course she couldn't be a daredevil for just one day, going against her strict code of morals. She had to get punished for having the fun Cloud did every day. But maybe her childhood friend was the one meant to live a life at risk, and she was designated to be his anchor of sanity, nothing more.
Only now was she realizing that even if Cloud forgave her for destroying his motorcycle (as he hadn't completely dismissed the subject yet), she would spend a long time trying to forgive herself. She hugged her arms as Cloud wandered back over, carrying all of the parts of his Buster Sword in his hand.
"How did you get those back?" she inquired, keen to get her mind off of the mistake she had made.
He shrugged, "They're made of a special material—virtually unbreakable. Meaning that a little fire won't do much at all."
"I meant," she clarified, "how did you get them out of the flaming fireball of steel?"
Cloud looked surprised, "I reached in and grabbed them." As if it was the simplest answer one could think of. Which, in Cloud's mind, it probably was.
Tifa decided not to point out that sane people wouldn't reach their hands into a molten pile of metal for all the money in the world.
Cloud put the sword pieces together and sheathed the large weapon in the scabbard across his back. Barret cleared his throat, "We may wanna be gitten' back ta yur house, Tifa. Cloud clearly lef' Marlene an' Denzel alone."
"Cloud!" Tifa cried before she could even consider the reason Cloud had left the two children alone. "They're just kids! You couldn't have found a babysitter?"
He raised an eyebrow at her, "Are you criticizing me, after the stunt you pulled?"
She shut her mouth, though continued to simmer. He ignored that fact and glanced at the silver car that was still sitting in the median, with jolly Jiku humming to a song playing on the radio, not a worry in the world, "Come on, Jiku will take us back."
"I'm prolly gonna have ta stay at yer house t'night," Barret mused as he climbed into the front seat. Cloud and Tifa loaded in the back of the car. "I can't exac'ly drive home."
"That's fine," Tifa said, voice full of guilt. "I'll make up a bed."
"It's the least you could do," Cloud added, staring past Jiku's head out the front window as the car pulled into traffic, heading back to the Seventh Heaven. Tifa cringed at his words, but didn't object.
Jiku beamed at the young woman, "Tifa, how're ya doing?" he asked, grinning obliviously.
She plastered a smile on her face, "Fine, Jiku. And you?"
"Just peachy!" he started telling her about his wife and her recent ventures in yoga, though below his contented speech the tension lay as thick as a wool blanket. When he finally pulled up to the bar, Tifa ended the conversation with a swift 'thank you' and waved as the man pulled away. Cloud unlocked the door, and quickly stepped aside as Marlene and Denzel rushed past him, barreling into Tifa.
"Tifa!" Marlene cried, hugging her. "We were scared! Cloud left really quickly and didn't tell us why!"
The young woman eyed her blonde friend with disapproval, but he wasn't paying attention, instead entering the bar with an unconcerned manner.
"Are you okay, Tifa?" Denzel ventured to ask. "What happened?"
"I'm okay," she assured them. "I decided to… take Cloud's motorcycle into the shop today, and I got into a car accident on the way."
Cloud was inside, so the kids didn't hear him snort at the comment.
Tifa stood and led the two kids back into the bar. When Marlene took notice of Barret, she gave the black-haired woman a quick hug and set off for her newest target.
"Daddy!" she said happily, and he hefted her up with his arm, grinning.
"How've ya been, Marlene?" he laughed heartily.
The little girl bounced on her feet when Barret placed her on the floor again, "Good. Denzel and I made a sandcastle at the park!"
" 'S'it still there?" the large man looked over at Denzel, who nodded eagerly. Barret glanced quickly between Cloud and Tifa, and then started for the door. "Come on, then. Show me!" And he led the kids out of the bar.
Which, coincidentally, left Cloud and Tifa alone.
Tifa hesitated, playing with a loose strand of hair as Cloud got himself a drink. When he had filled a mug with beer, he walked over to a table and pulled up a seat—sometime between when they pulled up to the house and then, Cloud had taken off his sword and sheath. Tifa swallowed and covered the distance between them simultaneously, sitting next to him. He took a swig of beer, almost as if waiting for her to say something.
"Cloud…" she took a deep breath. "I'm really, really sorry."
Still he said nothing, staring at something towards the front of the shop. She buried her head in her hands.
"I—I don't know what got over me. I guess that just once, I wanted to do something daring. And since you rode that thing every day, I… I didn't consider that I could crash. You make driving it look so easy," her face fell. "Even on dirt."
Finally, he turned his head sideways to glance at her, "What you did was stupid."
She lowered her head, "Very stupid."
"And when I get a replacement bike, you won't go near it unless I'm already driving and I say you can get on."
He took another swig of beer, "And when the kids get back, you're going to explain to them what really happened today, and apologize."
Tifa hesitated, but nodded slowly nonetheless, "Okay."
Cloud looked away again, blue eyes staring at the door as he continued to down his drink. She waited impatiently, fidgeting. That couldn't really be it, could it? One of the most idiotic things she'd done in all her life, and he was going to let it go after a few basic ground rules? Soon, she realized that she couldn't leave things like this. There was something more to be said about her actions.
"Is that it?" she finally demanded, impatient. "That's all you're going to say on the matter? Look, I know I screwed up—"
"Then why say any more?" Cloud interrupted.
Tifa continued, undeterred, "But your silence is going to make me go mad. Tell me how you really feel about this!"
"You want more?" Cloud's voice rose steadily. "Fine. Here's what you're looking for. You're the biggest idiot on the planet right now, making the kids worry like they did. You're the most immature woman I've ever met, because you took the keys when I told you they were off-limits. But what really pisses me off is that you didn't even think to ask me before stealing my bike! Did you ever consider that I would have let you drive if you'd ask once in a while?!"
Tifa cowered away from Cloud, whose ice-blue eyes were flashing now. She knew that she had asked for this, literally, but his words still felt like a whip on her bare back, striking hard and without mercy. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself and pushed his chair away, standing and bringing his beer to the sink behind the bar. Tifa absorbed what he said, horrified and afraid of both Cloud and her actions.
Finally, Cloud strode back over to her, folding his arms, "Don't cry, Tifa," his voice, though it still held a bit of an edge, was soft.
She blinked, startled, not even realizing that tears had been slowly trailing down her cheeks. She squeezed her eyes shut and turned her head away from Cloud, "You're right. You're absolutely right. I was a complete imbecile. And apologizing won't do a damn thing to change that."
"Tifa, look at me," Cloud's voice was stern. When she didn't comply, gentle hands took hold of her chin and turned her face towards him. She reluctantly opened her eyes, blinking to rid them of the tears. Cloud knelt down so he was a bit below eye-level with her. "Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is that you realize that what you did was stupid, and that you don't do it again."
A slight smirk turned her lips upward, "Did you get that from the Important Life Lessons to Teach Your Children book?"
He rolled his eyes, releasing her chin, "The point is, don't do it again. Besides, now we're all one day wiser. You feel better now?"
Her smirk was gone, and she met his level gaze with her teared chocolate eyes, "No… I can't forgive myself until you forgive me."
Cloud blinked, "As long as you promise to never do it again, I forgive you, Tifa."
"Thank you," she smiled at him in relief as Denzel, Marlene, and Barret walked through the door.
Never again, Tifa thought, getting up to greet the children. Although… for the time it lasted, that was one awesome ride.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed this. :) Krissy's one complaint was that Tifa's characterization seemed a bit off, and because of it Cloud's did too. I blame this on not having any real contact with Cloud OR Tifa since my last FFVII kick (i haven't watched Advent Children in a while). What do you think? Were the characterizations off? Was the story crap? The review button is right below this! :D