A small ficlet I wrote for an OTP battle on LJ. Because I don't write much and therefore pad out my FF account with whatever I do manage to churn out. Anyway, the prompt was Cloud/Tifa and Shopping with the Kids.

Sometimes Tifa wasn't sure who were the children in their group.

Cloud liked to think he was stoic and in control of himself, especially around the family that he had collected around him-fearing that anything less would render him incapable of protecting them, but Tifa loved watching the little glimpses of the boy she used to know shine through whenever they visited the market with Denzel and Marlene.

Oh, he would pretend that he wasn't interested in wares that caught his eye or that the sight of Marlene lighting up at a vendor making and selling moogle dolls wouldn't put a smile on his face and in his eyes, but she knew better.

The way he would talk to the owner of the stall selling spare bike parts for several minutes, not noticing Tifa break away to purchase spices at the fragrant stall next door. Or the way he would spot someone selling items reclaimed from the Midgar ruins and stare longingly at rare lenses for his camera, such things difficult to obtain in their shaky new world.

The way he would buy such things and then haltingly tell her, as if he was worried she would think him foolish or accuse him of wasting his money like Denzel tended to when he gravitated to the sweets stall.

But whenever they left the market, Denzel's mouth sticky with sugar and Marlene tying a pink ribbon around the neck of her new moggle doll, it was always the small excited look in Cloud's eyes that made her feel the warmest and the most thankful for the new peace they lived in.

But it paled in comparison the the warmth she felt when Cloud, with Denzel looking on in unbridled excitement and Marlene stifling giggles behind them, handed her a small garnet pendant; a blush reminiscent of a teenager staining his cheeks and a stammered 'It reminded me of your eyes' being his only explanation for his gift.

She was sure the noise that escaped her throat was as childish as any behaviour she had seen from their family at the market.

But the way his arms returned the hug she gave him, to Marlene's contented sigh and Denzel's embarrassed shuffle, reminded her that neither of them were children anymore.