AN: Written for hime_luna and previously published at my LiveJournal. I suppose you could say it belongs in The Path To Redemption-verse.

Prompt: Vincent/Tifa, irrational phobias.

Vincent's irrational phobias are crunchy.

"Eat up," she said.

Vincent looked at the plate Tifa set down before him and swallowed, though it wasn't in anticipation. Across from him, Denzel was tearing into his dinner with gusto, even managing an "I think this is my favorite, Tifa" somewhere between bites. Next to him, Marlene was dividing her portion into similar categories.

"Why, hello, Mrs. Pea. How are you? I'm fine, Mrs. Other Pea," she was saying. "As long as Mr. Chicken and Mr. Potato Chip stay over on that side of the plate tonight."

And that was the source of his problem. Peas, chicken and potato chips? Vincent grimaced.

Unfortunately, with her fork halfway to her mouth, Tifa caught it. "Something wrong, Vincy?"

"Not at all," he lied.

Tifa smiled. "Good. Eat up before it gets cold."

Vincent barely suppressed a shudder. Cold peas, chicken and potato chips would be even worse. He looked around the dinner table in desperation. Where was the bread tonight? Why no wine? Dear gods, as much as he was fond of Tifa and her cooking, he wasn't going to be able to choke down the travesty disguised as a "casserole" without some help.

Beside him, Marlene continued to talk to her food. "Yum, yum, Mr. Potato Chip! You are yummy!"

Somewhere, a part of Vincent's brain managed a weak laugh.

"Vincent, something is wrong," Tifa hissed at his shoulder. "You have to tell me now. What's wrong with you?"

"It's, ah...nothing," he said. But when Tifa's eyebrow shot up, he added, "Nothing but an irrational phobia."

"Irrational phobia?" Tifa echoed. Vincent thought he detected a shrillness in her voice that hadn't been there before. "Irrational phobia! Of what—my dinner?"

Yes, but he was a dead man if he said it. Clearly Tifa was getting upset, and even Marlene and Denzel were sending looks of censure his way. "My fork," he said lamely. "My fork had a spot on it."

"Your fork?" Denzel looked away in disgust.

"Shame on Mr. Fork!"

"That's all? A dirty fork?" The expression on Tifa's face was a mix of concern and skepticism. "Why didn't you say so earlier? Here, I'll get you a new, clean—"

She rose from her chair but Vincent grabbed her hand and pulled her back down. "That won't be necessary, because I can—" He made a show of wiping the supposedly offensive utensil on his shirt. "Phobia, ah, cured."

"Good!" Tifa turned back to her plate. "Now, eat up, Vincy."

Eat up, Vincy. "Right."

Under the table's watchful eyes, he took a brave forkful and closed his mouth around it. The chicken and peas were excellent, but... Crunch. Vincent's jaw stopped working.

Beside him, Marlene beamed. "Isn't Mr. Potato Chip yummy?"

This time all of Vincent's brain joined in the weak laugh.

Comments are appreciated!