I noticed a discrepancy about how I wrote Tifa's scar. I was rereading chapter one and realized that in Last Order, Sephiroth slashed Tifa across the chest, and that it never went through. I'll leave it that way and I hope no one minds, since it would disrupt the flow of that scene if I went back and removed it. Sorry for touching into this now, but I hope everyone enjoys this chapter. Also, I think I went totally OOC on Rufus. Read on…
Tifa suspected that it would be a while before she got used to seeing Cloud looking so… comfortable in his skin. She was sitting up against the headboard of his bed, watching him as he dressed for the day, freshly showered. Beads of water were still trailing over his pectoral muscles, down a flat, defined stomach: skin that only a few hours ago her mouth had traversed over.
Cloud paused his morning ritual when he realized that he had Tifa as his audience. He smirked lightly as he pulled on a pair of boxers, pants, and finally a shirt over his head, effectively cutting off her ogling. "What are you going to do today?" he asked her casually.
"The usual. Clean, cook, pick up the kids at school, and then open the bar," she said with a little sigh. "What time will you be home?"
Cloud walked over to sit in front of her, brushing his finger lightly through her bangs, pushing them away from her eyes. "Are you… sure you want to attempt something with me?" he asked her quietly.
Tifa gave him a serene smile and smoothed her thumb across his lower lip. Instead of replying right away, she moved forward to gently brush her lips across his in a whisper of a kiss. "I think we established that last night."
A smirk worked its way across Cloud's face and he stared at her lips as she smiled. "I'll try to make it home before lunch tomorrow," he said, answering her previous question. "I have to take quite a few packages to Rocket Town and then I'm going to take Monday, and Tuesday off. Sound good?"
She nodded. "I'm sure Denzel and Marlene will love the fact that you're going to be here for two days straight."
"What about you?" Cloud asked slowly.
"Me?" she asked. Cloud nodded. "I'm sure we can find a few moments to spend alone," Tifa said, a light blush covering her cheeks.
Cloud's own cheeks had a dusting of pink as he leaned forward to kiss her chastely once more before standing. "Take care of yourself, Teef."
"I will. Be safe out there," Tifa countered.
Cloud inclined his head. "I will," he assured her with a small smile. He turned and grabbed his boots before walking out and shutting the door to his room. A few minutes later, the roar of Fenrir's engine signaled his departure.
Tifa slid back down against the sheets and curled them around her, basking in Cloud's scent, mingling with hers. After lazing around for a few minutes—something she wasn't usually prone to do—she left the warm bed, the lingering scent of Cloud on her skin and walked off to take a shower before starting her day with making the children breakfast. Once she was done and was in the process of exiting Cloud's bathroom, the envelope that she had forgotten beckoned her from a forgotten place on the floor, nearly covered by the comforter of the bed.
She picked it up and took it with her to her room. Placing it onto her dresser, she looked at the envelope curiously as she dressed and then as she brushed her damp hair out. When she was finally done with her personal routine, she took it and turned it over after scanning the professional calligraphy in her and Cloud's names respectively. She frowned when she noticed the Shinra seal and rolled her eyes to herself. Rufus Shinra… ever the ostentatious spoiled brat. She took out the letter from inside and quickly realized that it was an invitation. Her eyebrows shot up when she read that it was to a private dinner with the rest of AVALANCHE and Reeve.
Well, this certainly was unexpected, Tifa mused. A dinner? She had to wonder if the rest of their friends had already received the invitation and if they would accept. She could already picture Cid and Barret's answers, not to mention Cloud's. Tifa had never been one to truly hold grudges and she had to admit that Rufus had done his fair share of evil, but he hadn't been evil to the extent of his father. Rufus Shinra hadn't created the company, neither had he funded SOLDIER or allowed a psycho like Hojo to conduct so many freakish experiments. Besides, he had been trying his best to fix what his father had destroyed. He'd gone about doing it the wrong way, but at least he had tried.
That was the case she would plead once Cloud returned home and she had a chance to tell him about the dinner party. Humming to herself, Tifa stood and began to make her way towards the kitchen to prepare breakfast, hoping that Barret didn't forget that he had promised to take the children to school that morning. She found after a moment that she couldn't erase the smile from her face. Her heart felt light, and a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Cloud was undeniably hers.
Letting out a happy little sigh, Tifa wondered when Yuffie would come around to tell her how her night had gone.
By the time night fell, her mind had all but forgotten about the invitation and she was watching as Yuffie paced around the bar. She looked incredibly cute in an actual dress. It was still only a few centimeters longer than her usual short shorts, but the silky material clung to her more womanly curves and over slim shoulders fell thin straps. Tifa noticed that the ninja was grimacing in anxiety.
"Here," Tifa said, sliding a small shot glass filled to the brim with dark liquor. "For the nerves," she explained at Yuffie's questioning look. "Make sure not to drink too much unless you want to make a fool of yourself tonight."
Yuffie downed the drink in one go and only scrunched her nose slightly. Her tolerance had risen thanks to Cid and his constant drinking games. "Thanks, but I don't generally need alcohol to make a fool out of myself," she said wryly.
Tifa smiled and patted her hand. "Everything will be great tonight. Stop worrying."
"Hey, did you get the invitation too?" Yuffie asked, momentarily taking her mind off of her impending date. "The one for dinner with Shinra and the Turkeys?"
Tifa nodded. "We got it yesterday, but we… um… I didn't get a chance to see it until today in the morning," she said, hating herself for the hot blush on her cheeks.
Of course Yuffie would notice it. "Too busy doing other things, huh?" she asked with a lewd waggling of eyebrows. If anything, the blush got even hotter on Tifa's cheeks. "Oh, Teef, don't go all embarrassed on me. I expect full details on how it is to make love to the man you're in love with."
"Will you promise me the same once it happens between you and Vincent?" Tifa asked her in challenge.
"Of course. But we're actually assuming that Vincent would want to do more than kiss me," said Yuffie.
"Well, one look at you in that dress and I'm sure he'll have more than proper thoughts in his head about you," Tifa said with a wink, delighting in Yuffie's blush now.
"Teef… he's barely even kissed me. I don't think Vincent thinks about me like that. He's like one of the last gentlemen left in this century."
Tifa debated with herself on whether or not she needed to point out the fact that Cloud was a gentleman too, but she bit her lip. Cloud was still a little stuck in adolescence; he just needed a little prompting when it came to being a gentleman. The closest thing he'd come to doing to put him on Yuffie's list was bring her flowers—and then it had been flowers from Aerith's church, or flowers he'd picked from a field. Come to think of it, he'd never bought her flowers—and he also volunteered to watch the children so that she could have weekends of free time for herself, and sometimes he brought her cookies from a bakery store in Kalm… "Cloud is a gentleman too," she said, cutting off Yuffie's moody silence.
Yuffie smirked. "That conversation ended ages ago, Teef. You were all spaced out."
"That's because I was thinking about all the little things. Cloud may not be perfect, but he has his moments," Tifa said with a fond smile.
The ninja bit back a giggle and nodded. Tifa still had it bad and there was no way of her denying that she was still in love with a certain chocobo look-alike. She was so busy trying to think of the best way to tease her, that she didn't even hear the door open and the quiet footsteps come up behind her.
"Yuffie," said a deep voice, making her jump clear off the stool and almost making her fall on her face. The only thing that prevented her from kissing the floor was a warm, strong arm around her waist.
"You don't ever sneak up on a ninja," Yuffie hissed as she allowed him to straighten her out. "I could've stabbed you in the eye with one of my ninja stars," she said darkly.
Vincent looked at her from head to toe and couldn't hold the smirk from sliding onto his face at her blush. "Where would you keep them?"
Instead of humiliating herself further, Yuffie matched his smirk. "Wouldn't you like to know," she said, raising an eyebrow at him. She had to stop and stare though, when she noticed what it was that he was wearing. He was still in his trademark colors, but he looked different. He was wearing a dark red dress shirt, black slacks, and black dress shoes. "Wow. You clean up nice, Vince," she whispered.
His smirk returned and he inclined his head once. "Shall we go?" he asked.
Yuffie nodded and waved at Tifa as she and Vincent walked out the door. They walked in silence for a few minutes, Yuffie following and trying to stop from looking like a teenager on her first date and with a man hotter and older than she was. "Where are we going?" she asked after a long moment.
"We're almost there," he said quietly. Then he made a small 'hmm,' as if he had remembered something. He produced a flower from a hidden pocket—Yuffie hadn't seen exactly where it had come from—and handed it over to her. It was a white rose.
Yuffie looked up at him with a smile as she brought the small bloom to her nose to sniff it. It had the most delicate and sweet scent she had ever taken in. "Thanks," she murmured, stopping him with a hand on his arm. When Vincent paused and looked at her head-on, Yuffie stood on the tips of her toes to press a gentle kiss on his lips. She smiled shyly at him and felt her heart skip a beat when he closed one of his hands over hers. Yuffie had a feeling that tonight would be perfect.
Unfortunately, Leviathan had other plans and he decided that he wanted the both of them to have an awkward and quiet date. Really, who would've known that she and Vincent didn't have anything in common?
They had been sitting in a small restaurant, eating steaks and drinking wine—Vincent giving her alcohol?—and avoiding any loud sounds for fear of getting recognized by admirers of AVALANCHE. Vincent looked much different, but she didn't, even with the dress she had on. Conversation had been wan and a little forced between them. For once in her life, Yuffie couldn't really think of anything to say to him, and she didn't want to pry into his past without making things worse. She wanted desperately to talk to him, but what could she say without getting him angry or making a complete fool of herself?
"You should try the wine. It is from a very good year," said Vincent, startling Yuffie from her thoughts. He had been watching her for a few moments, wondering what she had been thinking about with the fork raised slightly above her plate and with a piece of steak resting on it.
Yuffie stared at the bottle and then laughed uncomfortably. "It was made the year I was born. How about that, the bottle and I are the same age."
Vincent set down his glass of wine and stared at the bottle before looking at Yuffie. "I had forgotten how young you are."
The expression on her face looked as if she had swallowed something painful. "Don't do that."
"Do what?" Vincent asked with a frown. He didn't like seeing that look on her face, and it made something inside of him clench painfully.
"Don't go with the whole, 'I'm too old for her' thing," Yuffie pleaded. "I know we have roughly nothing in common, but all I know is that I feel good when you're around me and I wouldn't give that up for all the materia in the world. I want us to be able to talk, and I want you to look at me and—and…" she trailed off, realizing that he was staring at her.
"And?" he prodded gently.
Yuffie let out a sad little sigh. "I want you to need me."
Vincent pushed his plate aside and took her hand in his, brushing his lips against her knuckles. "I do need you," he assured her. "Why else do you think I have remained in Edge for so long?" Her smile could've lighted the entirety of the Gold Saucer; it was sweet, innocent, and something he had needed in his life for a long time.
Yuffie stared at their linked hands and felt her heart jumping around in her chest happily. The other hand rubbed at the delicate petals of the rose sitting on her lap. "Does that mean that we're together now?"
Vincent cleared his throat once and wondered how he was supposed to answer a question like that. No matter how much they ignored it, Yuffie was still far younger than he was. But there was something inside of him that felt that he could have a future with her. Lucrecia had granted him a chance to live a normal life. "If you are happy dealing with someone as old as myself, then yes."
Yuffie let out a small squeal and wrapped her arms around his neck, making the glasses and plates clink together loudly. She sat back with a sheepish look on her face when she realized that people were staring at them. "Maybe we should go?" she offered.
Vincent nodded and called for the check. If he could be the person to put the bounce back into her step, and the glint of happiness in her eyes, he would gladly do it. Though he supposed it would take him time to give Yuffie exactly what she would need from a man. And then he'd have to prove himself to Godo somehow. But he was jumping the gun. He wanted to hope that Yuffie would want him in her life for the long run, but she was young. She was bound to change her mind, right?
He ignored his surly thoughts for the moment and focused on the now. On how sweet she smelled, and how womanly she looked. How her smile could light up his life if he got to see it every day, and how she could find it in herself to touch him so easily.
Vincent was sure that Yuffie would be the only person he would care for and who would care for him with all her heart. The thought sat well with him, and if he were honest, it scared him a little. But a part of him told him that fear was a good thing. It meant that he was human after all. Vincent felt a smile lift his lips a fraction and his eyes darted down to see his hand entwined with Yuffie's. No, being afraid wasn't all that bad.
Tifa smiled to herself as Yuffie pranced around the kitchen dreamily, humming a cute little tune to herself. The ninja really hadn't volunteered any details on her date with Vincent, but Tifa had a feeling that everything had gone right. Though Yuffie would have begged her to spill the details had their roles been reversed, Tifa wasn't like Yuffie and she wanted to give the younger girl some privacy. Yuffie would tell her when she was ready to, or when she wasn't able to keep it to herself any longer.
Tifa was also amazed to find that though Yuffie was a disaster when it came to cooking, she was incredible when it came to baking, and at the moment she was making oatmeal cookies from scratch. "Needs a little more brown sugar," Yuffie muttered to herself.
"Here you go," Tifa said, handing over the container, an amused smile on her face. "So…"
Yuffie glanced at her and smiled. "Fine," she said after a pause and a grin. "It was nice. We just… didn't know what to talk about. It was all awkward until he walked me back here, and then he kissed me on the porch."
Tifa was confused. "You… didn't talk at all during your date?"
"I had assumed that it would've killed me to remain silent, but it didn't. Strangely enough, we were comfortable in the quiet silence. But you know, despite our date being nice, he still got out of talking to me," Yuffie said, a bit of annoyance coming through in her voice.
"Yuffie, he'll have to talk to you eventually, if he wants you to take him seriously. Which I'm sure he does," Tifa said in reassurance.
Yuffie pouted a little, but then her smile returned. "He gave me a rose before dinner and then kissed me after dinner. It was the sweetest kiss I've ever had," she admitted.
"Give it time," Tifa said kindly. "If there's anything you should be patient about, it's this. You'll eventually break through his barrier, don't worry about that. If Vincent didn't want you to pursue him, he wouldn't have asked you to dinner," she assured the younger woman.
Yuffie gave her a cheerful grin and pulled her into a hug. "Thanks Teef, you're like the big sister I always wanted. You always know the perfect things to say."
Tifa rubbed her back soothingly and nodded. "And you're the little sister I always wanted too."
"What's the occasion for sharing hugs?"
Both women pulled apart and Yuffie grinned cheekily at Cloud; neither of them had heard the rumble of Fenrir. "Didn't you hear? Tifa is leaving you for me," she said with a grin, noticing the twitch in Cloud's eyebrow.
Tifa let out an amused laugh and shook her head, walking over to press a kiss to Cloud's cheek. "We were having a girly moment," she said.
"I'm going to make myself scarce and I'll go wait for Marley and Denny at school. Then I'll take them to get some ice cream," she said walking off towards the door.
"Call me when you have them!" Tifa called.
"Will do!" Yuffie replied before she was out the door.
Tifa turned to Cloud and noted the tired look on his face. "Rough ride?" she asked him, reaching up to help him out of his sword holder and the wolf-head on his shoulder.
"Rode through the night and I only had a few hours of sleep," he admitted.
"Well, do you want to take a nap or eat something first? I can make you a sandwich and some juice," Tifa offered, brushing back his blond spikes from his eyes.
Cloud watched her curiously, smiling slightly at how easily she was touching him now. It made him feel warm and cared for—more than usual of course—and he was enjoying every minute of it. He encircled Tifa in his arms and held her, closing his eyes and breathing her in.
Tifa smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck, reveling in the fact that he was in her arms now, no doubts, no regrets, no guilt, and no one else standing between them. "Cloud?" she asked him after a long moment of silence.
"A sandwich sounds great," he murmured, not releasing her. "I'll take a quick shower, eat, and then take a short nap so that I can be up before the bar opens," he said, finally drawing back.
Tifa smiled when he leaned forward and prompted a kiss from her, brushing the backs of his fingers over her cheek. She stared into the bright blue of his eyes and found that there was nothing missing in her life in that moment. "Go," she said, her heart skipping a beat at the realization that she truly did love him still. She smiled as she guided him towards the doorway that led to the stairs. "I'll bring the food up."
Cloud nodded and hesitated, holding her gaze. Then he gave her that same small smile and walked off towards his room.
Her shoulders were relaxed and her mood was in the clouds as she prepared Cloud's lunch and added some chips and a few grapes in case he wanted something extra. Pouring him a glass of juice, she placed it all on a borrowed tray from the bar and walked up to Cloud's room as he was exiting the bathroom, only a towel wrapped around his hips. Tifa avoided staring and placed his food on the nightstand, turning to go and giving him some privacy, despite having seen all of him already.
"Tifa," Cloud started.
She turned to look at him and realized that he was holding the invitation she had forgotten to take with her the day before. Well, she hadn't expected to get right into it with him, but it had to be done. Before she could open her mouth and plead her case, Cloud spoke.
Well, it looked like she had her work cut out for her. "Cloud—"
"Tifa, I am not going to walk willingly into Shinra's den," he said as he fished around for some boxers and a clean pair of pajama pants. He slipped them both on underneath the towel and Tifa only averted her eyes slightly.
She crossed her arms over her chest and planted her feet stubbornly. Cloud really wanted to try and beat her at being head-strong? Hmm, she wished him luck. "Cloud, this is a chance for us to get along with Shinra and his Turks. He's rebuilding his company and helping the planet with it. He did things in the past that for some are unforgivable, but didn't we do the same? Even in the name of justice and the planet? He's not his father. He's trying to fix things and be the bigger person here."
Cloud released something of a snort and began to munch on some of the grapes. "What if he's calling us all to his place to kill us all in one swoop? What if the food or the drinks are poisoned?" he asked her smartly.
Geez, paranoid much? Tifa rolled her eyes. "You think he'd want to kill Reeve and the children too?"
He refused to reply. He just didn't like the idea of being in any enclosed space with Shinra and his lackeys. Besides, he despised the way Rude looked at Tifa when he thought Cloud wasn't around to see him. Maybe this would be a good idea. He'd be able to show the man that Tifa had someone who would look after her now. While he came up with various ideas of how to stake his claim without insulting Tifa, he hadn't noticed that she had closed the gap between them and that she was giving him a look from under lowered lashes.
"Cloud," she started in a low voice, one that sent a shiver down his spine. "I called Barret and Cid, and they're going. So is Yuffie, and by default, Vincent is more than likely to go, if only to keep an eye on her. Reeve will go for diplomatic reasons, and even Red will be there. The only person refusing to go is you. Now, if you like the idea of the children and me being alone with Rufus Shinra and his Turks, then please, stay here. If not, show them how good, kind, and mature you are and come with us," she said, drawing a finger down his bare chest.
Cloud knew that she was attempting to distract him into accepting, but he couldn't actually deny that her method was working. Curse Tifa for being a beautiful woman! "This isn't exactly a fair argument," he murmured against her lips after she had moved forward to kiss him.
"I know," Tifa said with a giggle. "Now are we going or not?"
Cloud's eyes were half lidded as he gazed at her, Tifa's fingers combing through his damp spikes. "Fine," he muttered, closing his eyes as the kiss deepened. He was beginning to burn for her when Tifa abruptly pulled back, a naughty smile on her face.
"Eat your lunch and go to sleep," she said, literally prancing out of the room.
Cloud groaned and cursed himself for being so weak-willed when it came to Tifa. Was he truly doomed to a life where he wouldn't be able to deny her anything? Biting down viciously into a half of sandwich, he sat down on his bed with a sigh and ate. He could only hope that Shinra wasn't up to his old tricks. Cloud was really in no mood for anymore fighting. He was done and all he wanted now was to live his life in peace and with his family. It had been a while since he had wanted something so desperately and it was truly the first time that he had his wish within his grasp. Nothing and no one would stand in his way now.
"You both look so pretty," Marlene complimented as she watched both Tifa and Yuffie in their dresses for the dinner.
"Thanks, Marley!" Yuffie exclaimed, hugging the little girl tightly.
"Is it true?" Marlene asked her with big, curious eyes.
"Is what true?" Tifa asked the girl, brushing her chestnut hued hair out a few times until it was smooth and shiny.
"That aunt Yuffie and Uncle Vincent are together now?" Marlene asked curiously.
"Where did you hear that?" Tifa asked the child in interest.
"Well, I heard Uncle Vincent talking to Cloud about looking good for Yuffie. It was more like Cloud teasing him, but why else would Vincent want to look good for Yuffie?" the girl asked curiously.
"Vincent just doesn't want me to look hotter than he does," Yuffie grumbled. "But yes, Marley, Vince and I are an item. No one is supposed to know about it though. We'll keep it our little secret, okay?"
Young features scrunched up in confusion. "Why?"
"Because we both know how your dad and Uncle Cid are. They'll blow the roof off of this place and they try to go all protective-dads on me. Seriously, I don't need another Godo," said Yuffie, rolling her eyes. "We'll keep it a secret between us girls, okay?"
"Okay!" Marlene said excitedly. "Can I put on my dress now?"
Tifa nodded and smiled at Yuffie in relief. Though it really seemed like more of a manipulation on Yuffie's part to keep a secret, the ninja was right. Tifa didn't think that either Cid or Barret were ready to know about the two of them being together.
There was a knock at the door and Yuffie walked over to get it, a wolf whistle filling the room. "Why, ladies, I didn't know there could be so many beauties in one room," Reeve complimented as he stood in the doorway and looked at them.
Marlene smiled brightly and pranced over to hug Reeve around the middle. "Do you like my dress, uncle Reeve?"
"Why yes, sweetheart. You're the most beautiful girl in the room," the commissioner complimented, watching her twirl around in a lavender colored puffy dress. "Are we ready to go?" he asked the women.
Yuffie nodded and grabbed her coat, walking out the door with Marlene. Tifa followed, pulling on her own coat, since there was a warning of potential snow. "How have you been, Reeve?" she asked as they walked down the stairs.
"I'm good; thank you for asking. And you?"
"We're doing great. I'm really glad you found time to get away from work. We miss you around here," Tifa said, patting his arm. They stepped into the bar and looked around, finding no one else there. "Where is Cloud?"
"I offered to take you all in one of the Shadow Fox's and he eagerly accepted. He said something about inspecting the Healin Lodge before he allowed you all to set foot there," Reeve said with a grin.
"What's he inspecting for? Dynamite? Radioactive poisoning?" Yuffie asked, rolling her eyes.
"He just wants us to be safe," Tifa said sternly, giving Yuffie a pointed look as she motioned towards Marlene.
"Is Mr. Rufus going to hurt us?" Marlene asked in confusion.
"No, sweetheart," Tifa said immediately. "But we know how Cloud wants us to always be safe, don't we?"
Denzel walked out of the kitchen with a glass of juice in his hand. "Are we leaving yet?" he asked.
Tifa smiled and rubbed his neatly brushed hair. He looked handsome in a suit, and though he wasn't complaining the way she would've thought, he still looked a little uncomfortable. "We're ready, aren't we?"
Reeve nodded. "I just hope that it really doesn't snow tonight. The last thing we need is to get stranded there," he said as they walked out towards the truck.
By the time they arrived, the sun had completely disappeared and the weather seemed to have gone colder. Yuffie's teeth chattered, though she was thankful that Tifa had insisted on them wearing warm, thick coats. They stepped out of Reeve's truck and Marlene slipped her hand around hers for warmth. Cloud, Vincent, Cid, Shera, Barret, and Red were standing outside in the cold, waiting for them.
"What took you so long?" Cloud asked, his breath misting out into the cold. He was wearing a flimsy jacket over a dark blue dress shirt.
Vincent eyed Yuffie briefly and gave her a half smile as she approached him and squeezed his hand before any of the other men could see it. Marlene was giggling behind her hand as she looked at Vincent, and the older man just made a small sound of amusement.
"Reeve wasn't paying attention to the roads and he got out on the wrong one," Yuffie said, glaring at the leader of the WRO.
"And then he refused to ask for directions," Tifa said with a small laugh. "We're not too late are we?" she asked with a frown. Knowing Cloud, he had probably been assuming that Shinra had had them run off the road.
Cloud shook his head and took Tifa's hand as she began to walk up the stairs, leading everyone towards the entrance. After knocking a few times, Reno opened the door with a cocky grin on his face.
"Took you guys long enough! I was about to break out the drinks for myself," he said, stepping back and allowing them to enter.
"How are you, Reno?" Tifa asked him with a smile.
He took her hand and gave it an exaggerated kiss. "Better now that you're here," he assured her, quickly releasing her when he noticed the glare on Cloud's face.
As everyone piled into the foyer of the suite at the lodge that Rufus occupied from time to time, the host himself stepped out of the next room. "Welcome," he greeted. "I was beginning to wonder if you would come tonight."
"We're here for the free booze," Yuffie chimed in, breaking through the tension that had begun to rise.
"Hell yeah," Cid put in, receiving a reproachful look from his wife.
"We should begin dinner if you'd like," Rufus offered. Almost everyone left the room, venturing into the next, except for Cloud and Tifa. "Is there something on your mind?" he asked the both of them.
Tifa smiled. "We just want to thank you for taking the first step into making a friendship between all of us work," she said, nudging Cloud in the ribs.
Rufus nodded once and offered her an honest smile. "I know you have no reason to believe me, but I want to right what my father destroyed. There's a lot one learns when they're on the brink of death. Isn't that right, Cloud?" he asked lightly, giving the other blond a clever look.
Cloud's lips thinned into a line, but he nodded. "I just hope you're being honest about this. I think it goes without really saying what I will do if you put my family in danger once more," he said, his tone only slightly dark and foreboding.
"I can assure you that the last thing I want to is to hurt anyone, let alone anyone from AVALANCHE. I hold a great respect for what you were capable of doing, Cloud," Rufus said.
Cloud seemed to relax fractionally at his words, but Tifa could still feel the tension in him. They both watched Rufus walk away and she turned to look at Cloud. "Are you okay now?" she asked quietly, brushing a hand through his spikes.
Cloud relaxed into her touch and wrapped his arm around her waist, pressing their foreheads together. "I'm okay knowing that you're all nearby in order for me to protect you," he whispered.
Tifa smiled and kissed his chin. "You think we should tell the children about us being together now?"
"I think they'll be happy," he replied with a nod. There was a series of exclamations coming from the dining room and Cloud moved away from Tifa quickly before pulling her into the room behind him.
The children were standing by the massive double doors looking out into the dark night. Except that it wasn't as dark as it should've been. Thick clusters of snow were falling down from the sky in what looked like a storm. Reno was standing off by the door that led towards the kitchen, listening to a small radio. "Seems like the storm changed course and decided to hit us first," he commented, winking at Yuffie.
Vincent narrowed his eyes at the redhead and then turned to look at Cloud. "How long is it going to be?" Yuffie asked, holding Marlene in her lap from her seat at the table.
"Seems like it'll be all night and possibly all day tomorrow," he chuckled loudly. "Funny, isn't it? It seems like we're all going to be stranded together!"
Cloud suppressed a groan and looked helplessly outside. He felt Tifa's hand slide against his and once again he felt a little more at ease. Tifa and the children were close by and Rufus seemed to be honest for the first time in his life, though he still seemed to be far too keen on the hair flipping. But being stranded with him and his Turks for more than a few hours? How were they going to survive that? Besides, the damn snowstorm had ruined his special plans for the gift he had for Tifa.
Cloud let out a small sigh and squeezed Tifa's hand back. It seemed like they were in for a long night.
You see? I need to stop trying to predict the length of my stories. It just makes me look like a doofus when I keep adding chapters. Anyway, I hope everyone enjoyed this piece. Next one will pick up with dinner, Reno and Rude causing a bit of tension for our favorite guys, and some Marlene and Denzel cuteness. We'll also see what Cloud has planned for Tifa, and a bit of how Vincent started to have interest in Yuffie, since there have been questions regarding that. Thank you so much if you took the time to review. I've been running out of time lately, so if I didn't reply to your review, know that I'm very thankful that you took the time to read my work. I've fallen behind with my replies, but school can do that to you. Thankfully I'm almost done with the class I'm taking. Again, thank you for reading and I hope everyone has a great week!
P.S. please excuse any grammatical errors, typos, and repetitive words. I'll check this over after I get some sleep…