Wow, it's definitely been a while since I've visited this particular fandom. It's a strange feeling every time I revisit it.

It's a short peek into the post-AC lives of Cloud and Tifa—and one of it's particular anxieties.


Humpty-Dumpty by KyuuketsukiShounen

There are many things that me and Tifa don't talk about. Number Two on the list had been the fact that we hardly ever have sex. Part of the reason was because we'd unnecessarily tangled it with feelings regarding the former Thing Not to Talk About Number One.

"But the late Miss Gainsborough desires it!" Aeris's placid face hiccuped in Yuffie's voice. The young ninja had, in her drunken stupor, snatched a photograph of Aeris off the wall of the bar and was using it as a mask. "Have at it with Tifa. 'Sides, you're over me, ain'tcha Cloud?"

"Tifa! Could I get some help over here?"

"'Cuz you should be over poor old Aeris by now," Yuffie added on before slumping onto the bar and rolling over into my lap.

"Tifa!"

That was the first and last party that Yuffie had been allowed access to the bar. Me and Tifa made the note that being Planet-saving warrior does not necessarily translate to having the ability to handle one's liquor.

Thing is, after the incident with the Sephiroth clones, after the healing of the Geostigma, after Thing Not to Talk About Number One became somewhat amicable territory for me, our stagnant physical relationship had become routine enough to never question it. Aeris had kindly wedged herself out of our anxieties to let the living act like the living. And it's opened up the horrible truth that our guilt over her hardly stands as the worst problem.

The second time we'd had sex was after defeating Sephiroth the first time. And though we were bathing in the afterglow of victory, it was disappointingly less mind-blowing than our first time under the Highwind. Neither of us had anticipated that expecting to live past the next forty-eight hours would ever be such a buzz kill.

Worse still, between our meager experiences in the field, we're both pretty bad at it. Tifa says we have good excuses. As a bartender in Midgar, her hands were full enough trying not to get raped, let alone having the chance at a proper sexual encounter. I was in a glass tube for most of that time.

True to form as a crusty older man, Cid was full of advice. Never one to mince words, he'd told us that despite our lack of practice—in fact, because of it—now was more the right time than ever:

"Now that yer done gettin' fucked over, it's time to get on to plain ol' fucking, am I right?"

I wish I could say that he'd been as drunk as Yuffie. But to his credit, it was a valid point. Unfortunately, for people like Tifa and myself, things just don't snap together so easily. It's gotten to the point where the patrons at the bar have gotten bored trying to place bets on us. The last one I heard about was a few months ago, when odds were twenty to one that I liked dick, and seventy to one that if I did, it was definitely Vincent's.

Tonight though, it's not about guilt, or inexperience, or bets. It's about the way her hair sticks to her forehead with sweat. It's about the exact angle of our bodies when I lean in closer, and she pushes back to meet me.

Her eyes are screwed shut in concentration and she turns her head to the side, muffling herself into the pillow. It's a lucky night for us, and there's no need to wake the kids. My vision starts to blur, and so much determination has pooled into my hips that I barely have enough strength in the rest of my body to even make a fist around the sheets.

For a wonderful moment her body is like a bulb with too much wattage, shining brighter than it should, and so hot, like it wants to be the sun. And then pop. We're two people sitting spent in the dark.

I have always thought that we must be broken people. We try too hard to put our pieces back together to ever deny that we are not whole. But life is just too humpty-dumpty and no matter how hard we try, some pieces are lost forever. Crushed into dust beneath the hooves of all the king's horses and our own hesitation. I think we both know this.

The question has never been whether I love her enough, or whether she loves me. But real life is too distracting to keep wondering. For now, it's enough to sleep safely in the same bed. It's enough to know that for some reason the kids like it when I cook dinner for them, even though Tifa is much better at it. It's enough to find little notes taped to Fenrir, telling me not to forget the milk this time, punctuated with a quickly scrawled heart.

"I think we're alright, Cloud," she says to me tonight, after we've both showered. I sit on the edge of the bed obediently as she towels my hair dry. When she's done, she leaves the towel draped over my head, like she always does. I lift a corner up above my eyes to see her standing at the window.

Her reassurances are aspirin for broken bones. Nothing's fixed; but the pain subsides. Just for a while.

End


A/N: When I first started writing this, it was pretty damn melodramatic actually. But then I got really annoyed and thought to myself, "Hey, this is starting to sound like every CloudxTifa fic in existence." So I disposed with the sap and went for a snappy sort of humor with a soft moment just at the end, to finish it up with a memorable emotional resonance.

Hope you guys liked it—readers are much appreciated, but reviewers are especially so.