A/N: These are one-shots about Cloud, Tifa, Denzel, and Marlene. This was originally supposed to be a set of fifty one-shots, but I've cut it to thirty. This will definitely have some that are Cloud/Tifa, (as evidenced by the first one here) but the focus is all four characters in various times and scenarios, so if you're looking for one-shots that focus solely on Cloud/Tifa, you'll probably be disappointed.
Disclaimer: As usual, I do not own any part of the Final Fantasy VII compilation.
The question was so quiet that Tifa almost missed hearing it. She looked up from the list she was writing and met Cloud's eyes across the table. He had been sorting delivery slips, but now he was just looking at her. His face was carefully neutral, but she could read the question in his eyes. "Why what?"
Cloud gazed at her for a moment longer and then shook his head slightly, turning his attention back to his slips. Tifa set down her pen, reaching over and covering his hand with her own.
Cloud stilled as soon as her fingers touched him, his eyes moving back to her. Finally, he asked, "Why are you still here?"
Tifa frowned. "Here at Seventh Heaven? Here writing a supply list?"
"Here with me. Why didn't you just give up on me when I left you alone with the kids? There have been…" He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck with the hand not trapped by hers. "There have been so many times when you should have given up on me."
Tifa's hand tightened on his. Not a week earlier, she had learned that Cloud had Geostigma. Not a week earlier, she had been terrified she would lose him forever--if not to the Stigma, then to his own despair, guilt, and hopelessness. "Should I have given up? Left you alone?"
It was her turn to ask. "Why?"
"I'm…me. All I've ever done is drag you down. Even when I tried to keep you and the kids safe, all I did was hurt all of you." His words were halting but deliberate, and she knew that he'd been thinking about this, probably ever since he'd been healed of Geostigma and returned to Seventh Heaven. "I don't know if I'll ever be good at this." Cloud's eyes darted around the bar, to his delivery slips, then back to her. "At normal life."
"It's okay. It's okay, Cloud. Half the time I still have no idea what a normal life really is. Right now, all I can do is be here, with Marlene and Denzel. With you."
He was scrutinizing her now, as though trying to see into the depths of her mind. "Is that enough for you?" She heard the words he wasn't saying, hanging between them, almost tangible even though they were still unspoken. Am I enough for you?
She found it ironic that not so long ago, she had been the one asking if even they were not enough for him. "Yes, Cloud. That's enough for me." She wasn't sure he really understood that, wasn't sure he was yet at a point where he could really comprehend how anyone could want him. He had a tendency to see what was broken in himself, and in that, she knew they had more in common than he might have realized. It was easy for her to see her own shortcomings and failures, easy to doubt herself and to be insecure about her place in Cloud's life. He'd been home for less than a week and she still hadn't shed the fear that she would wake up one day and find him gone. She didn't want to be left alone again.
Cloud moved his hand out from under hers, and she tried not to be disappointed that he was withdrawing from her. But then he pressed his fingers gently to her forehead, which she realized was scrunched up with her frown. "You're worried," he said.
He dropped his hand and she forced a smile, shaking her head. "I'm okay."
"Tifa." He always managed to fit exactly what he was feeling into the way he said her name, and right now, he was telling her he didn't believe her.
Just don't go anywhere, she thought. She bit her lip and looked down at her supply list, but the words she had written blurred together and didn't seem to make any sense. Maybe she should do this tomorrow when she wasn't so tired.
Cloud stood up from the table, and she fully expected him to gather up his delivery slips and leave the room. Instead, he stepped over to her and took her hands, tugging her to her feet. Her eyes flew to his in surprise, but then he was pulling her close, wrapping his arms around her. She was so startled that it took her a moment to actually move at all, but then she was returning his hesitant embrace.
It was a gesture on his part that said so much to her. It said "I'm sorry" and "it's okay." It said "I'm here" and "I'm going to try." And maybe it said more than that, too, but those unspoken words still lay just beneath the surface, not quite ready to come yet, but maybe someday. Maybe soon.
She pressed her face into his shoulder and took a deep breath, smiling even though he couldn't see it.
He was enough for her. More than enough. She would give everything she had to show him that, no matter how much time it took. Just like she always had.