A/N: I don't even remember where this idea came from, but I found a bit of it scribbled in one of my notebooks and decided to finish it. It's been some months since I wrote a FFVII piece, so hopefully it didn't turn out too badly for a random one-shot. ;)
Disclaimer: Not mine. Square Enix's.
Seventh Heaven was quiet, save for the rain that pounded against the windows and the rustle of paper as Cloud, sitting at one of the tables, sorted through paper slips and marked paths on his maps, waiting until the worst of the storm passed before he left for his deliveries.
At the table beside Cloud's, Marlene leaned over to look at the colored sheets of paper Tifa had pulled out in an attempt to give the kids something creative to do, since they couldn't go outside. It had been raining nonstop for three days, and every time Tifa thought it would stop, another huge storm came through. Both Marlene and Denzel were going stir-crazy and had been starting to bicker at each other.
"I like this blue paper with the flowers," Marlene said. "What are we doing with it, Tifa?"
"Ori-what?" Denzel's face scrunched up in bafflement.
Cloud didn't look up from his task as he muttered, "Paper folding."
"Paper folding?" Denzel echoed dubiously.
"Well, yes," Tifa said. "It's the art of folding paper to make something out of it."
"Oh. That sounds girly," Denzel said, slumping down in his chair.
"So?" Marlene propped her elbows on the table. "What's wrong with that?"
"I'm not a girl, Marlene!"
"I do things that boys are supposed to do. Who cares?"
"It's not just for girls, Denzel," Tifa cut in before another argument could start. "It's for anyone who wants to learn. I bet even Cloud can do it."
Cloud finally glanced over at her suspiciously. Tifa just smiled innocently at him, and he looked even more wary. Before he could voice his protest--his eyes were already protesting--she said, "Why don't you ask him to show you something?"
"Oooh, can you, Cloud?" Marlene bounced in her seat. She gave him her big-eyed, pleading look.
"I've never done it before, Marlene," Cloud said.
"So? You're always telling us 'it just takes practice.'"
It was hard to argue with his own words, and after a moment, Cloud's chair scraped back as he stood and walked to the table where Tifa and the kids were sitting. He took a seat across from Tifa, and her smile widened and she said, "Why doesn't Cloud start first?"
Denzel was simply watching to see what Cloud would do, but Marlene bounced even higher in her chair and said, "Yes! What color do you want, Cloud? Ooh, look! There's a yellow one! You could use that; it would match your hair."
Cloud patiently accepted the paper from Marlene and then looked at Tifa resignedly. She took a sheet of paper and said, "There are a lot of different things you can make. Animals, flowers, bugs--"
At this, Denzel finally looked interested, and for his benefit, Tifa carefully began folding her paper until she had a perfect insect in front of her. "See?"
"Neat!" Marlene said. "Can you show me how to make a flower?"
Tifa slowly demonstrated how to make a flower, going step by step so that Marlene could copy her actions. When the little girl was finished, she held up her patterned blue flower and waved it with relish. "I did it!"
Tifa made a few more flowers to help Marlene, and a few insects to help Denzel, then let both children begin working on their own. Her attention was caught by Cloud, whose forehead was furrowed in concentration. He was still working on the same yellow square of paper, and as she watched, he apparently decided he was finished and held it up.
She fought to keep her lips from twitching, but when Cloud looked at her, he must have seen the mirth in her eyes, because he sighed and set his very deformed yellow flower (at least, Tifa thought it was supposed to be a flower) on the table. She couldn't help a short giggle, however, when he reached for another paper, his face set in determination.
A short time later, the table was spread with origami; Marlene had created an entire garden of flowers and had gotten Tifa to show her how to make a butterfly, while Denzel had a bug army spread out before him. He then set them marching toward Marlene's flowers. Marlene squealed and objected, putting her arms protectively over her origami garden. "Tifa!"
Tifa tapped Denzel's head, giving him a 'be nice' look. He grinned at her, but halted his bug army march.
Cloud was now struggling with his third sheet of paper. When the kids took their creations upstairs to their room, Tifa moved into Denzel's empty chair and watched Cloud until he stopped and looked up at her. "Folding paper shouldn't be this hard," he told her, holding up his third very sad flower. Or maybe he'd tried to go for a bug. It kind of looked like a cross between the two. He frowned at the deformed flower-bug in his hands and crumpled it up.
"Don't ruin it!" Tifa protested.
"I think it was already ruined, Tifa," he said pointedly.
Tifa crossed her arms. "What happened to 'it just takes practice?'"
A small smile quirked the corner of Cloud's mouth. "Not everyone's good at art."
"You never know unless you keep trying. You're already doing better than you were."
Cloud shook his head, pushing back from the table and rising. He looked at her for a moment, then smoothed out the flower-bug as best he could and held it out to her. Smiling, Tifa took it.
"Looks like the rain's letting up. I should get going," Cloud said quietly. He gathered up his maps and delivery slips, and then called good-bye to the kids. They yelled "'Bye, Cloud!" from upstairs.
When he turned back around, Tifa wrapped her arms around him. "Drive safely."
"You know me."
Tifa looked at him pointedly, and he kissed her lightly. She pulled him closer for a longer kiss before letting him go. "See you tonight."
He nodded, and then he was walking out the door. Tifa got a brief glimpse of the light rain coming down before the door was shut. A moment later, she heard the unmistakable sound of Fenrir's engine as it was kicked into life.
When Cloud came into the bedroom at some point during the night, Tifa woke long enough to smile sleepily, claim a kiss, and then curl up against him when he slipped into the bed. When she woke again, it was morning. Weak light filtered through the window, still gray and dismal, and there continued to be a light tapping of rain on the roof. She sat up and stretched, but before she could stand up, her eye caught something on the bedside table. It was a perfect red paper flower, and underneath it was a note in Cloud's scribbled handwriting.
Beaming, she placed the unrecognizable flower-bug from the previous afternoon next to the beautiful one.
The smell of coffee lured Tifa out of bed and down the stairs. It was early enough that the kids were still sleeping, and the first thing she saw when she reached the bar was Cloud seated at one of the tables, sorting through his daily deliveries. It was not until her eyes were drawn to her bar counter that she realized just how much Cloud had practiced. Origami flowers in various shapes and forms were littered all over the counter. She took one look at the mess and started laughing. "How early did you get up this morning?" she asked, walking up behind Cloud and bending down to hug him around his shoulders.
He reached a hand back and ran it down her hair. "I did it last night." He paused. "You're not going to try to keep all of those, too, are you?"
Tifa buried her face in his neck for a moment, and he relaxed his head against her. "I don't know. We might be able to make a business out of it. Mutant origami flowers made by Cloud Strife. We could make a fortune."
As she pulled away and went to get a cup of coffee, he looked over at her with narrowed eyes. "Very funny."
"I'm still partial to the first one. I think I'll frame it."
He raised questioning eyebrows, but she didn't feel the need to explain that Cloud's bug-flower would always remind her of Cloud himself. It would sound ridiculous. But it only went to prove that with a little time and practice, anything could get better, whether it was something as simple as an origami flower or as infinitely complex as a person.
So she just looked between him and the littered counter and smiled.