I know I said Zack would cause mischief, but it all came out as him having some really unfortunate accidents. We'll see how he handles it when the shoe is on the other foot. I hope everyone enjoys and sorry for the long wait!
Knight in Shining Armor
On their way back, they both slipped down the slope and fell right on their backs onto the muddy trail. Tifa was still laughing as he pulled her to her feet, and he took over rubbing her tender backside while she swatted at his bold touch. "We need to get back to my parents' house before we get sick!" she exclaimed, shaking mud from the backs of her legs and her hands.
Zack grinned and dipped her back to kiss her dramatically, swallowing her squeal of laughter. Her hands came around to cup his face, and when they slowly parted, there were muddy handprints on his cheeks. Tifa smiled and stared him in the eyes as they stood there in the middle of the woods, soaked through, and with the rain washing away the mud from their fall. "Ifrit, but I do love you," he murmured, pressing their foreheads together.
"As if our little escapade in the lake wasn't enough proof for me," Tifa said with a smitten smile. "Though I do miss my friends, being with you would be more than enough for me to be happy for the rest of my life."
Zack brought her slim fingers to his lips and laid a kiss on each one, already washed free of mud by the tears escaping the sky. "How about we try our luck in the mud?" he asked suggestively.
"Zack! We had sex in the lake a few minutes ago!" she exclaimed.
"I was only kidding, but the look on your face was priceless," he said with a cackle. "Come on. You're right, the last thing we need is to get sick on our vacation," Zack said as he took her hand again and pulled her along and down the trail a little more carefully.
By the time they arrived back at Tifa's old home, the rain was coming down even harder and her mother opened the door with a worried expression on her face. She began to flutter around him with a motherly voice, directing them to take hot showers—in separate bathrooms of course—and then into warm clothes while she made them hot chocolate.
Almost thirty minutes later, Tifa found herself cuddling under a thick quilt with Zack. She giggled against his chest when he tickled her stomach. Her father had left them to go watch some sort of sports game in his den, while her mother worked on making some cookies from scratch in the kitchen.
"Tomorrow we're going to have breakfast at my aunt's house. You'll get to meet her, my other aunt and a few of my cousins," Tifa said, snuggling against his chest as the warmth made her sleepy. "I have to warn you though… they're the touchy-feely type."
"How touchy-feely are we talking about?" Zack asked, rubbing Tifa's back soothingly.
"Well… inappropriate touchy-feely type," Tifa said with a faint chortle.
Zack grunted. "I guess you'll have to stake your claim," he murmured, running his hands down her back and towards her bottom.
Tifa slapped his hands away. "My aunts won't care about that. All they'll care about is how hot you are."
Zack laid back and gave her a curious look. "Am I really that hot?" he asked her.
She sat up and gave him an incredulous look. "Do you really need me to tell you?"
Zack shrugged one shoulder. "Yeah. I mean, there's nothing better for a guy's ego than hearing his girlfriend say he's good looking."
"Well…" Tifa started, trailing off. "You are pretty cute, but I mean, if I compare you to Angeal, and Genesis, oh, and let's not forget Sephiroth—well, that's a different story."
"Hey!" Zack exclaimed, feeling a surge of jealousy go through him at the sound of other men's names coming from his beautiful girlfriend's wonderful mouth. He tackled her down and they fell onto the carpeted floor with a muffled thump and amidst Tifa's loud guffaws as he tickled her senseless.
"I was kidding! I promise… I was kidding!" she gasped out between breaths.
"Keep it clean, you two. You don't want Tifa's father to come down here to see what all the noise is about," Tifa's mother called from the kitchen.
Tifa lay gasping and panting underneath him and Zack pulled her back up onto the couch, pressing kisses to her cheek. "Of course you're the finest out of all of them," she assured Zack. "You shouldn't need for me to point it out. The fact that I love seeing you naked should be an indication," she whispered against his ear.
Zack grinned and pulled her into a slow, languorous kiss. "You know, I don't have a problem telling you how sexy you are," he pointed out.
Tifa rolled her eyes and leaned forward to squeeze his cheeks until he winced. "You're a beautiful specimen of a man, and I'm jealous of any girl that looks at you." She gave him a dry look. "There, are you happy?"
"Extremely happy," Zack assured her.
Tifa snuggled back into his arms and together they remained warm and toasty for a long moment. "You know, I thought my dad would kick up a fuss when he saw the way we came in," she whispered against his chest.
"It's not like, 'we had sex in the lake,' was stamped on our foreheads," he said with a grin, brushing her hair from her eyes and then rubbing his thumb across her cheek.
Tifa slapped him upside the head. "Don't even whisper it," she hissed.
"Okay," Zack repeated in her same tone. "Well, so far we haven't really had any standoffs, so we're okay, right?"
"Don't think you're off the hook yet," Tifa murmured, slowly standing.
"Where are you going?" he nearly whined, already missing her warmth.
"To see what else my mom is baking in the kitchen," Tifa said. She leaned forward to brush her lips with his before walking off towards the kitchen, where her mother could be heard humming a sweet tune.
Zack watched her go with a grin on his face and snuggled back into the quilt, momentarily closing his eyes. Before he could doze off though, he heard a throat clear nearby. He cracked open one blue eye and quickly sat up straight. "Sir?" he asked, his voice cracking slightly. How long had the man been standing by the foot of the stairs?
"I'd like to have a word with you," said Tifa's father, motioning towards the stairs.
Zack nodded quickly and got to his feet, nearly tripping over the quilt as it tangled around his legs. He finally freed himself and walked as gracefully as he could up the stairs, following the older man. He was amazed to see a very contemporary looking den, complete with a large television and leather couches sitting in the spacious room. They must have been brought in from the closest city, since Zack hadn't thought that Nibelheim had any modern appliance stores. There was one poster of a classic motorcycle sitting on one wall, while on the wall across from it there were various pictures of Tifa's father fishing, camping, and in hunting gear.
"We're not as backwater as you think," Tifa's father informed him. "Are you a city boy, Mr. Fair?"
"Uh, no sir. I was born in Gongaga, though I have lived in Midgar since I was fifteen," Zack said, taking a seat on the recliner the other man had motioned him to.
"You grew up in the wilderness then," the older man murmured. "Why ever did you wish to leave your home?"
Zack shrugged. "I love my home and my family, but I wanted more. At first, it was a foolish dream to become famous. To have money and fans," he admitted. "But it was a child's foolish dream. I learned that being a SOLDIER is not about fame. We help protect cities and villages from monsters, and from other oppressing forces."
Mr. Lockhart nodded and gave Zack a look of slight admiration. His expression closed off almost instantly. "You know that I must ask… what are your intentions with my daughter?"
Zack had known this conversation was coming, and he'd practiced his answers, but he knew that he had to speak from the heart if he wanted Tifa's father to believe him. "I love Tifa," he said after a moment. "I want her to be in my life for as long as I live."
Dark maroon eyes regarded him seriously. "Are you an honorable man, Mr. Fair?"
"I believe I am, sir," Zack replied immediately.
"Then I can trust that you will respect my daughter until the day you are married?"
Too late for that, Zack thought inwardly. But he nodded. "Of course sir. When the time comes, I will be sure to ask for her hand in marriage properly."
The older man looked satisfied, for the moment. "My daughter seems truly happy. There was something that always told me that the other boy she brought home wasn't the person for her. Seeing her with you now… well, let's say it doesn't make me guilty that I never did accept him," he said with a slight chuckle.
Zack still felt a small amount of pity for Cloud, but he was on Mr. Lockhart's side in that respect. If the other man had accepted Cloud easily, then maybe he and Tifa would've still been together. It was a really big maybe though. "Tifa makes me happy," he admitted. "The type of happy that I hadn't found in a job that I enjoy, and the type of happy that I was beginning to miss in my life."
"How did you meet her?"
Zack grinned brightly, feeling the mood lift substantially. "She fell into the lake in one of Midgar's parks. I jumped in to save her."
Mr. Lockhart let out a chuckle. "How did she fall in?"
"She had a run in with a dog walker and many children," Zack said in amusement. "I didn't know she could swim, but I helped her out anyway. It was only the beginning of very strange adventures with her," he said with a smile.
Mr. Lockhart nodded and his mood became somber. "I expect her to be happy," he said in his stern voice. He stood and Zack followed.
"I'll try to the best of my ability to make her happy," Zack promised.
"Good," said Mr. Lockhart, patting his shoulder once. "If you can survive having breakfast with family from my wife's side, you will be a welcome addition to our family."
Zack didn't like the note of sneakiness in the other man's voice. Really, he was beginning to feel afraid of Tifa's family. But he supposed that if she had survived his family, the least he could do was attempt to survive hers. Walking off towards the stairs, Zack got the feeling that he had passed some sort of test with Tifa's father. It made him glad, but he also had a feeling of foreboding for tomorrow.
"You look so handsome," Mrs. Lockhart complimented as Zack walked out of the bathroom, clad in a pair of jeans, boots, and a light blue dress shirt. "The color makes your eyes stand out more."
"Thank you, ma'am," Zack said with a grin, running a hand through his thick spikes.
Tifa walked down the stairs from her room and smiled when she saw her mother making a fuss over how attractive Zack looked. She rolled her eyes when she noted the self-satisfied look on his face at her mother's gushing. "Mama, can't you see his ego inflating?" she asked.
Zack turned to look at her and eyed her from head to toe. "There aren't going to be any guys not related to you there, right?" he asked, one eyebrow raised.
She had to smirk at him in amusement. "I don't think so. Unless my aunts invite other people from town, but I can't guarantee you anything."
Tifa's mother smiled at them and pressed a kiss to her daughter's cheek. "You look beautiful, sweetheart. And don't worry. I have compliments for the both of you," she said, referring to Tifa's comment on her inflating Zack's opinion of himself.
"Thank you, mama," Tifa said, stealing herself a cookie from the jar sitting in the middle of the table.
Zack watched her silently eat the treat and glanced at her attire once more. Though it wasn't anything overly flashy or revealing, she looked beautiful in his eyes. She was dressed in all white. The peasant skirt she had on fell low on her hips and the white t-shirt she had gone for left a small amount of her waist and stomach visible. The only other color she was wearing was the brown of the wide belt falling on her hips.
"Why don't you two start to walk over to your aunt's house? I have to see why your father is taking so long," Mrs. Lockhart said to Tifa.
"Come on," Tifa said, taking Zack's hand and pulling him out of the house and down the street. "She lives on the other side of the town, but since Nibelheim isn't so big, we'll be there in like five minutes," she explained.
Zack wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pressed a kiss to her cheek. "I think I got your dad's blessing yesterday."
"You did?" Tifa asked excitedly.
"He took me to his den to give me that 'protective-father' talk, but I ended up just telling him how we met and what I feel for you," Zack said.
"I'm happy that you're making the effort to get along with him. My dad is… a difficult man when he wants to be," Tifa said with a small smile. "I don't know how I'm going to walk out of their lives again when our time here is over."
Zack noticed her eyes go a little misty and he gave her a gentle squeeze as they kept walking. "We'll come visit them again. Besides, I promised I would come and ask for your hand in marriage properly."
Tifa laughed at that and nodded. "He'll hold you to that promise."
Zack felt a weight lift from his shoulders now that Tifa was no longer on the verge of crying. They finally arrived at the house that belonged to one of her aunts and Zack was only slightly relieved to hear that Tifa's oldest aunt was out of town, running some business errands in Junon. Apparently, she had a quilt-making business and a company in the other city wanted to buy her designs. That left them with only one aunt to deal with, but with many other cousins.
The smell of breakfast was wafting into the entire house and Zack felt his stomach grumble in protest. They had all gotten up late that morning, and the sun had already been bright in the sky by the time they left the Tifa's old home. They were led back towards the massive dining room where flurries of welcomes, exclamations, and hugs were given out to Tifa while she attempted to introduce him. Tifa's aunt seemed like a plumper version of her mother, with a sweet smile on her face that apparently ran in the family.
The hugs and kisses transferred to him and he smiled in bewilderment when he felt Tifa's aunt squeeze his ass and then pat it for good measure. Tifa was looking at them, attempting not to break into a fit of laughter, but luckily she was called away by some of her younger cousins. "Ah… would you mind if I used your restroom?" he asked, no longer being able to take the enthusiasm.
"Go ahead, you gorgeous boy. Up the stairs and to the right," said Tifa's aunt with a wiggle of eyebrows.
Zack took the stairs two at a time and locked himself in the bathroom to do his business and then to wash his face a little. Her family was turning out to be a little too much to handle, and they'd only been in the house for about ten minutes. After a few seconds of peace and quiet, he slowly crept out, looking side to side down the hallway. A table a few feet away caught his attention and he slowly walked over to it. His eyes widened and a chortled escaped him when he caught sight of various Sephiroth figurines sitting on the table. They were made of glass and of various sizes.
He smirked in amusement and reached over to pick one up to give it a closer inspection. Just as he was touching it, the door opened and two kids raced out, shoving him into the table and yelling apologies halfway down the stairs. Zack ran right into the table and with the force of his body, two figurines tumbled to the floor and shattered. "Shit—shit!" he hissed, picking the pieces up and trying to stick them together. It didn't work, of course.
"Uh, sorry," he muttered, setting the pieces on the table and racing down the stairs. He searched around for Tifa frantically and greeting a few other family members that he hadn't seen when they had arrived. He found the brunette talking animatedly to her aunt and a few of her cousins. He walked over to her and paused behind her. "Tifa. Ti-fa," Zack said urgently, tugging at her skirt like a child.
She turned away from family members and glared at him. At the look in his eyes, she excused them both and walked with him into the kitchen. "What's going on? I was having an adult conversation and you're acting like a child," she stressed.
"I think I may have done something bad," Zack said, rubbing the back of his neck and looking guilty. At Tifa's curious look, he grimaced. "I may have knocked over a some figurines in the hall when some kids shoved me into the table."
Tifa's eyes widened. "You don't mean… the Sephiroth figures my aunt nearly idolizes?" she asked in horror. Zack nodded slowly. "All of them?"
Zack shook his head. "Just two," he whispered.
Tifa wrung her hands and sighed. "We're going to have to come clean with my aunt. I don't think she'll completely flip out if you manage to offer her something in return."
"Well, what can I offer her that she'll want? Aside from my hot ass, of course."
He said it in such a matter-of-fact way that it made Tifa burst into laughter. He glared at her, and it made her sober up quickly. "Well, let's go talk to her and see what she'll—"
They heard a screech come from the second floor of the house. "I think she found them," Zack muttered. They both walked out of the kitchen quickly and raced up the stairs to find Tifa's aunt clutching the broken figurines.
"I'm going to kill all the little brats I saw running through the house!" she wailed.
Tifa elbowed Zack in the ribs. "Actually, aunty, I think Zack has something to tell you," she said with a nervous look on her face.
"I—uh, I'm sorry," Zack blurted. "I was looking at them when the kids ran into me and I broke them. It wasn't my intention, really it wasn't!"
Tifa's aunt gave him a tearful look. "These were collector's items," she whispered.
"Uh—well, I can… I can get you Sephiroth's actual autograph!" Zack said quickly.
Her eyes suddenly went bright. "You know Sephiroth?"
Zack nodded. "He's a close friend. If you forgive me, I promise you that I'll get you that autograph," he said quickly.
Tifa tried to stifle a snort of laughter, but she gave Zack a serious look when his eyes slid a glare towards her. "Come on, auntie, look at that pout! Won't you forgive him?" she asked, motioning towards Zack, who had a pathetic look on his face.
The older woman suddenly smiled and walked over to give his face a squeeze. "You're just so cute," she said. "But if you don't make good on that promise, I'll came after you in Midgar."
"I'm really, really sorry," Zack said honestly, squeezing her hand.
"You're forgiven, dear. Now run along and have breakfast with Tifa and the family. You have others to win over. Even when you broke my little figurines, you've got me on your side," she said with a warm smile.
Zack pressed a kiss to her cheek and then pulled Tifa down the stairs with him. "Nice," his girlfriend complimented. "I would've thought she would've kicked up a bigger fuss."
Zack let out a huge sigh of relief and sat down with Tifa to have breakfast. "Somehow I think that this is going to be the longest day of my life," he said, squeezing her hand under the table.
Despite his thoughts, it wasn't as bad as he had anticipated. Tifa's family was curious to learn about his missions in SOLDIER, how he had met Tifa, and what their plans for the future were. Of course, he and Tifa left out the part of them living together, since Zack could practically hear Tifa's father preparing his shotgun. Despite the success, he continued to break things. After getting conned into a game of softball with Tifa's younger cousins—the same ones to blame for the shattered figurines—they ended breaking the neighbor's kitchen window.
Tifa dragged Zack with her into the kitchen, where she was making a dessert. "Can you not stay out of trouble while I'm not around?" she scolded.
Zack grinned sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head. "They were betting me that I couldn't hit so far!" he tried to defend.
"They are kids. You are a grown man," Tifa stressed, beginning to mix in a few things for some homemade chocolate pudding. Zack stood at her back, watching her as she expertly mixed a few things. Tifa had no problem with it, since he had remained quiet, but she nearly ran into him three times and she turned an exasperated look on him.
"What now?" Zack asked, just as annoyed.
"You keep getting in the way. Here, stand by the stove and watch until the water boils. Then you can turn off the flame," Tifa said, moving towards the refrigerator for an extra egg.
Zack stared at the water in boredom. He did love the way Tifa cooked, but it had never really interested him to see the process. He was just too impatient, and that was the main reason why he had enjoyed take-out food so much when he had been single. Apparently, being bored also caused him to sometimes forget what he was doing. "Shit!"
Tifa dropped the egg on the floor at his loud exclamation. She was readying another glare when she realized that Zack had just burned his hand on the stove. She quickly ran over to him and ran his hand under cold water before darting towards a drawer where she knew her aunt kept a balm for burns. After many years, Tifa was happy to see that her aunt had kept it in the same place. Carefully drying his hand, Tifa applied the balm gently, biting her lip when Zack winced. "Poor baby," she whispered, reaching up to kiss his cheek.
Zack grimaced and reached over to turn off the boiling water with his good hand. "That's what I get for not paying attention," he muttered.
Tifa kissed his cheek. "Maybe later we can get away for an hour or two," she whispered, brushing her hand over his cheek gently. "I know my family is a handful, and we've already had a long day."
Zack smiled at her and moved out of the way when she began to prepare and mix everything together. Once it was done, and she had placed it into a large, rounded bowl, she placed it into the refrigerator. Zack watched curiously as Tifa used a finger to circle the mixture bowl and then stuck it into her mouth, humming softly.
His eyebrow twitched at the action, and he seriously wondered what was wrong with him. He could only chalk up his sexual charge to the anxiety and strain of dealing with Tifa's family. He hadn't really thought about it back home, but he had been just as antsy then. Ignoring the still throbbing burn on his hand, he moved over to where Tifa was still happily licking the pudding leftovers. "Hey," he said softy, turning her around. "How about you stop doing this?" he asked, slipping her chocolate covered index finger into his mouth. He slowly sucked off the sweetness and then drew the digit out of his mouth, making a last sweep with his tongue.
Tifa stared at him, at his darkened eyes. Before either one could say a thing, her arms had slipped around him to clutch at his back as his lips sought hers in a passionate embrace. It didn't register to her in that moment that any of her family members—including her father—could walk in at any moment and catch them sharing a kiss that was far from chaste. Her brain had short-circuited the same way it did every time Zack kissed her and the rest of the world ceased to matter. Finally, drawing away for breath, Zack smiled and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Mmm, you taste like chocolate," he said with a grin.
Tifa smiled and looked down at her hands, realizing that they'd had some chocolate residue. Now though, traces of her hands had been left on Zack's shirt. "I think we need to get you out of that shirt," she started.
"What?" Zack asked in pleasant surprise. "Great, let's go now. I prefer to take my time, but I have nothing against quickies—"
Tifa let out a giggle. "I meant that because I got chocolate on your shirt."
Zack had the grace to blush and look embarrassed. "If you don't want to get my shirt off because you want me, I must be losing my touch," he muttered.
"The pudding is done. Come on, we'll tell my aunt and slip away before anyone else notices we're gone."
Despite wanting some alone time with Tifa again, Zack couldn't help his curious inspection of her room. Tifa's mother had done the same as his. The room wasn't a total girly room—thankfully there was no excess of pink or frills—but it did have en excess of certificates and awards. "You were a teacher's pet!" Zack said in glee.
Tifa glared at him as she brought up a clean shirt for him and took a look outside of her window towards her aunt's house. The last thing she wanted or needed was to have her father or mother following them back. She turned back to Zack and watched him as he slowly unbuttoned his shirt, his eyes still taking in her room.
The walls were of a flowery wallpaper and despite there not being pinks or frills, she did have a vast collection of dolls, from the ones with the porcelain faces, to the ones that could be dressed up and accessorized. He also noticed a collection of stuffed cats. Her bed was a single, with plain sky blue flannel blanket, and pressed white sheets. The rest of her room was far more simple than what a little girl would've liked. "How long did you live here?"
"Until I was about eighteen," Tifa said, placing the clean shirt over the back of a chair. "Why?"
He smirked and turned to look at her, but find that her eyes had darkened to that dark wine color. The color they turned when she was having naughty thoughts, and he could see where her thoughts were going just as he reached the last button of his shirt. They met in the center of her room, his lips on hers, his hands smoothing over her voluptuous curves, while hers ran up the smooth skin of his chest, muscles twitching underneath her curious fingers.
"You're like a little-big girl," he said, voice laced with amusement as they moved to the small bed.
Tifa smiled and bit his ear, hearing him whine at the sharp pain. "Don't mock my room, Zack Fair. Have you forgotten yours? With all of your little action figures?" she asked with a laugh. He kissed her while she was still snickering.
"Oh, this is going to be disturbing," Zack muttered.
"Why?" Tifa asked, breathless.
"We're about to have sex amidst all of your teacher's pet trophies," Zack muttered. "And your creepy dolls."
Tifa let out a laugh and pushed his dirty dress shirt off of his shoulders. "Ignore them. And you better hurry up before my dad decides to come and check on us," she whispered against his lips.
"Can't have him walk in on us right in the middle of it," Zack muttered, getting to his feet and pulling off his clothing in a hurry. "I can be fast," he continued mumbling.
Tifa watched him in amusement and sighed when she felt his strong fingers racing up her thighs, pushing her skirt with them. "Fast and quiet," she said, embracing him when his warm, heavy body pressed against hers once more.
"I can do that," Zack said with a small chuckle.
The final night of their stay in Nibelheim, Tifa found herself standing under a beautiful clear night sky. The stars looked close enough to reach, and the though the air was cold, it was refreshing; it was a great change from Midgar's air. The mountains had fog at the very top, and the green of the trees added a nice touch of color to the town. She turned at the sound of Zack's footsteps in her room. It took a bit of maneuvering, but he folded his tall frame and made it out of her window and onto the small balcony there.
"You'll catch a cold if you stay out here too long," he murmured, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her into the warmth of his body.
Tifa smiled and tilted her head sideways when he pressed light kisses on her neck. "I'm trying to put this view into my memory. It's changed a bit since the last time I was here."
"We'll come back," he said with reassurance. "Remember that I told your dad I would ask his permission to marry you."
Tifa laughed and nodded. "But for now, this is all I can take with me."
They stood in comfortable silence for a long moment, until the breeze began to come a little harder. "I enjoyed meeting your family."
"We have the blessing of every single member of our families," she said happily. "I never thought that I would feel this complete." A kiss to her cheek was his answer.
From inside of the house, they could both hear soft music playing. Tifa smiled. "My mother always loved playing her music right before going to sleep."
Zack turned her in his arms and slowly moved her to the beat, his face buried in the space between her neck and shoulder. Tifa smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck, feeling her heart warm and content, even when the temperature was falling by the minute. "Man, but I do love you," he said after a long moment of them just swaying with the breeze.
"Same here," she replied, squeezing her eyes together and hoping that what they were living wasn't a dream. "I'm really happy we went through this experience together."
"Yeah," Zack replied, wrapping her more securely against him. "Yeah. But I can't wait to get back home so that I can have you all to myself," he whispered into her ear.
Tifa smiled and patted his back. "Is that all you think about?"
"Maybe," he said with a grin.
"Don't they sound happy?"
"Remember when we were their age?"
"We're not that old," said Mrs. Lockhart in annoyance. "Besides, I do remember you courting me and asking my to dance in the middle of central square right before you proposed."
A chuckle. "And you fainted on me."
"You know why I fainted. It was because our pretty girl was on her way."
"Shh, do not repeat that out loud. I don't want Tifa getting ideas. My grandchildren should come along properly," he said darkly.
His wife smiled. "Maybe we should think about moving to Midgar to be closer to Tifa once the children come."
"I'm not a city-type of man, dear, you know that," was the flat reply.
She glared. "Not even for your grandchildren?"
He smiled. "That's why trains were invented."
Mrs. Lockhart laughed softly and moved over to hug her husband as they stood on the front porch, enjoying the cool night. "I think they'll have a love like hours," she said, hearing as the boy her daughter was in love said the words to her.
"You mean love filled with many burnt dinners, shirts with burns from the iron, and arguing over who gets the remote?" Mr. Lockhart asked her with a smile.
She smiled and shook her head, brushing back her still dark strands of hair from her shoulder. "I meant a love that would last this long, and will keep lasting."
"She's got herself a good man," he said after a moment.
"You like him!" his wife exclaimed in pleasant surprise.
"Of course I don't," he said sternly.
His wife just gave him a sly smile and took his hand, pulling him back into their home when she heard Zack and Tifa's little conversation begin to escalate. It would do them no good if Tifa's father stopped liking the boy Tifa had brought home and who obviously wanted to marry her. She wouldn't risk losing her dream of grandkids.
Their goodbye was a teary one—well, from Tifa and her mother's side. Zack stood around awkwardly with Mr. Lockhart and watched the women hug and kiss each other in farewell. Tifa's father shook his hand and gave him a manly form of blessing, telling him to take care of his daughter or else. Zack just hid a smile and promised to care for her the way no one had ever done before. The train let out a loud whistle, and they boarded, Tifa still waving at her mother from their private cabin.
Zack looked at Tifa as she sat on their bed with her eyes and the tip of her nose red from crying. She looked so sad that all he wanted was to kiss her and promise that she would never have to cry again. But it would've been an unreal promise. He knew that even though things were bordering on perfect now, they would eventually have their normal ups and downs the way other normal couples did. But for now, he would offer her a hug and his shoulder to cry on.
By the time they arrived in Midgar, it was early in the morning and the sun was barely rising in the horizon. Even though no view would compare to the ones from Nibelheim and Gongaga. Tifa sleepily slipped her hand into his and they left the train, wanting only to collect their luggage and return home to sleep off the travel exhaustion.
They weren't expecting to nearly get tackled to the floor as soon as the steam from the train cleared away. Yuffie was a ball of energy as she squeezed the life out of his neck and Tifa's shoulders. "I'm so glad to see you guys!" she said excitedly.
Tifa smiled and her sleepiness receded when she realized that her friends had come to see them arrive. Aerith was more subdued with her reaction, but Tifa's surprise came in the form of Sephiroth and Vincent standing behind her friends. "I didn't think we'd see you until later," Tifa said, pulling away from Aerith's hug and waving at the two other men. "Thank you for coming."
"We couldn't wait to see you," Yuffie said, clutching her hand and nearly bouncing in place. "And well, the guys came along because, 'it's dangerous to wait alone in the train station before sunrise,'" she mimicked Vincent's deep voice.
Tifa and Aerith giggled at the exasperated noise that left the dark haired man at Yuffie's words. "How about we go get some coffee so that we can share our stories with you?"
"But aren't you tired?" Aerith asked worriedly, noticing the exhausted air around both her and Zack."
"We can talk for an hour and then we'll go home," Zack said, wrapping his arm around Tifa's shoulders.
"Come on," Yuffie said, dragging Tifa away. "I have to tell you about Vincent and his washing fiasco. I tell you, the man cannot wash his own clothes!" she said, snickering.
Zack looked at the embarrassed expression on Vincent's face and decided not to laugh. It wouldn't be fair, especially when he didn't know anything more than hammering a single nail. And Seph was keeping secret the fact that he was something of a neat-freak. It was good to be back in Midgar, with his friends. It made missing his family—and he was sure it felt the same for Tifa—hurt less.
Seeing Tifa smile brightly again made his heart skip a beat. They were home.
Dunno how I feel about this chapter. I had some trouble figuring out the ending, so I really hope it wasn't too sloppy. I know I went overboard with the fluff and talk of marriage again, but what can I say? I just love pointless mushy stuff. Next chapter will be the last, so I want to thank everyone who has given this story a chance and has reviewed it. You guys are awesome. Also, for the record, I have no clue how homemade pudding is made. I was just making stuff up there, so if anyone knows how it's done, sorry for butchering it! Corrections and stuff will be made soon, because I know the chapter will need it, but my eyes kinda hurt from reading this chapter now. Thank you for waiting patiently and for reading!