Disclaimer: I do not own the characters mentioned, nor do I own the song "Talk Show Host" by the amazing band "Radiohead", which offered a lot of inspiration for Cloud in this fic.

Authors Note: The ending sorta bugs me. It was done really late, and I was tired and running out of ideas, so thank you Ant for all the ones you suggested! I am dedicating this to him, since he is so loverly. My apologies for spelling mistakes if there are any. At one point I got lazy and began to only rely on my computers spelling/grammar check, so yeah.

It turned out to have a side of Reefie also, which is due to my current, unfaltering obsession with them.

My first go, really, at angst in fanfiction, and I'm happy with it mostly. Tifa and Cloud are just so goddamn full of anguish, it's great.

P.S. Talk Show Host really has anything to do with it.. its a rather melancholic song and it really fit the mood, so I guess it's a songfic? And it's entirely clear songfics aren't a strong point for me. Love Radiohead, great band.

Strife

-I want to...

He didn't like looking at her anymore.

Or at least, the reliable part of him didn't. The part that knew that the way his eyes lingered, it wasn't helping his already unsettled, reckless mind. It wasn't helping at all.

But really, he was selfish. He always had been. He had been selfish every time he had hurt her, and she had chosen to remain so sickeningly dedicated. He was hurting her now, probably. He always managed to do so without desiring to, so why would it be any different now that he was sitting there timidly with a glass of beer in his hand. Doing absolutely nothing.

Somehow, he had to be hurting her.

-I want to be someone else or I'll explode...

He could look, but he couldn't touch. He could watch every other drunken fool put their lecherous hand on her delicate shoulder, gazing at her pretty little face and the other endearing parts of her body. He watched her shrug it off, like the capable woman she was. He wondered if she knew that every single man in that bar was undressing her with his eyes.

He wondered if he would ever be honest enough to admit he had been one of those men on more than one occasion.

That was all it was, wasn't it, really? He had so much sexual tension cooped up, from watching this woman, from the time he was a kid to this moment now, when he had a glass of whiskey being cradled ever-so lovingly in his palms. With his head swirling and his stomach doing wonderful flips, and he watched the sweat slide down her graceful neck as she worked through the night, the headstrong bar hostess. He wasn't an alcoholic, although he wished he was sometimes. It was unbelievably calm on his tense muscles and his cramped mind. He could get used to this.

He wasn't so sure Tifa would be happy, though.

His sips were tentative, as he knew the bar hostess was very carefully keeping her eye on him, to make sure he kept out of trouble. It was her own silly notion, and somehow he didn't think she really thought he could cause too much disorder. Though the act was endearing enough for him not to get annoyed. She simply just cared. About me.

And he liked the change in positions for those few moments, when it was her that was looking at him, through those thick, ebony lashes of hers.

When she wasn't looking, though, he was always swallowing healthily at his mug, and he was gasping with relief as it warmed and pacified him further.

Each time, he really, really needed it.

'Cloud, when was the last time you got laid?'

The fight over the remote seemed ultimately forgotten the moment Yuffie's crude words left her delicate loudmouth, and the smooth piece of technology slipped from his palm and clunked to the couch. He stared at her for a long moment.

She gorged his reaction intensely, putting on an entirely irritating, mock-thoughtful expression as she tapped her chin. She slipped back onto the couch and lowered the arm that was groping across his chest, once grappling the remote for control. She didn't even care that the news was blaring beside her anymore, apathetically describing the weather. Cloud's reaction was far too entertaining.

'Huh. Let's see. Well, judging by how cranky and angsty you are, and how much of a work-a-holic you seem to be. I'd say a few months, right?'

Glare.

'Scratch that, a few years! Dude, Cloud, release those hormones! You think you're bad now, that sexual tension you have all strangled up in you will lead to very bad outcomes.' she glanced down slyly. 'And a rather desperate extremity. Poor little thing.' Yuffie cooed, insinuating the word "little".

Cloud narrowed his eyes at her. 'Get out of my house.'

Yuffie snorted. 'Tifa, do I have to leave the house?'

The woman in question sighed and moved to open her mouth— however; she was interrupted suddenly by a triumphant whoop.

'See! I get to stay!'

'Yuffie, I didn't even...' Well aware that the ninja was no longer paying attention to her, Tifa sighed once more and turned back to the dishes.

Yuffie wiggled her eyebrows. 'Yah sexually deprived cranky-bum!' A thought suddenly struck her, things became so much clearer. 'You're not into girls, are you!' she exclaimed, cupping her mouth dramatically with a fluttering hand. He bared his teeth in warning, as Yuffie cackled and slapped her knee. Moments later, she leaned forward, her own teeth gleaming in a mischievous grin. 'You know, you have plenty opportunities surrounding you.'

He quirked a brow, and gave a short relieved sigh when she crinkled her nose in disgust and once again held a hand over her mouth, dramatising herself dry-heaving into it.

'Gawd, Cloud! You're that desperate, aren't you?' She shook her head, oblivious to the fact she'd just slightly insulted herself. 'No, dumbass. You have two choices. One, go out and find yourself a hooker. They're everywhere, and it won't be hard, 'cause heapsa girls are totally into the pretty-boy look, and maybe some guys.'

Wink.

Glare.

'But you gotta pay for them so it'll be a hassle. Your second option, however, is free and fairly close to home.'

He brow quirked again. 'Our neighbour is a seventy year-old woman.'

She snorted with disgust, shaking her head amusedly. 'Cloud.' she said seriously for a moment. It didn't last long. That wicked smile was on her face again. 'I've seen the way you look at her. When you think nobody's watching. I bet she knows, too. I bet she wants it real bad.'

His stomach did a roll, as the realisation hit him. Really, really hit him. And he hadn't been the first to completely understand. How long would it take until Tifa got the gist of things?

Wait, no, no, there was nothing even to get the gist of. She was a close friend, a close companion- and sometimes when you hadn't had sex for a... while, and you were constantly surrounded by that one particular girl, he couldn't help it.

There was nothing.

It was getting obvious...

'But you forget, I am Yuffie teh great ninja, I see everything! So, before you explode with limited libido, hurry up and screw Ti—LET GO OF MY HAIR!'

That was the first time he had literally thrown the ninja out of his house, it wasn't just a figurative manner of speech anymore. When he turned back into the house, her eyes immediately found his, large and inquisitive; she tilted her head slightly to the side and put her soapy hands on her hips.

And in the most unwanted manner, his gut tightened at the intensity of her curious ruby pools.

Was it really that obvious?

-Floating upon the surface for the birds...

Damn Yuffie. Damn her to hell for spawning further thoughts in his already engrossed mind.

He really didn't like looking at her anymore, because it wasn't just about watching her. That was not the only prospect of his irritation any longer. It gave him very unwelcome thoughts. They seemed to be growing, the more time he had, the more he realised what was truly going on.

'Cloud.'

His body shouldn't have shuddered like that when she said his name. He shouldn't have had to bite his lip and pretend he didn't hear her while he tried to compose himself.

Sometimes, he thought he liked hearing her say his name more than he liked watching her.

She said it on a daily basis, with whatever tone it was brought on with. Whether it was with exasperation as he left his smelly boots scrambled on the floor of the lounge yet again, or a stifled giggle as he attempted to wash the dishes and only managed to get the ground, and himself, soaked in the process. Whether it was accompanied by a smile as she placed his favourite meal in front of him and lit up with delight as his gruff thanks came out in all honesty with a mere thumbs up, because his mouth was already stuffed with its deliciousness.

Really, it was just a name, and it was his. It was goofy. It was a goddamn puff of condensed water in the sky. He more or less should have cringed when she said his name. But somehow, she made it sound nice. She made a stupid girlie name sound like he was the strongest thing in the world.

That was the fattest lie he had ever told himself, almost as bad as when he tried to deny that that pleasing twist to his gut was brought on by her.

Being like this was only messing him up further. He had a job to do; he had a family to look after. He had his companions to remember, he had a stupid little ninja to kick out the door every few weeks. He had everything he could ever hope for, and yet he was still unhappy, because he was watching Tifa, he was watching and feeling her presence move right under his nose, and yet he couldn't touch her.

-You want me?

Sexual tension.

She had a very slim waist...how could someone with such well-endowed breasts like hers have such a tiny waist, tiny everything else?

Sexual deprivation mixed with sexual tension.

And her hands were very nimble... wouldn't they be callous, so rough from working so heavily in the bar, from fighting so frequently back in the old days?

That cannot be a good mix.

And her mouth looked so soft...was it possible for someone to have such naturally pink lips?

You're noticing everything too much.

It was getting painful now. He'd done this to himself. His whole life, it had led to this very point. He could blame himself as a kid, how he had adored her so pathetically. But really, he doubted that when he was a kid he had ever felt this, with the heat of her body radiating on him, and knowing that he was a very desperate son of a bitch.

Kids didn't feel that. They felt innocent adulation.

This was far from innocent.

Perhaps he could blame the puberty-stricken Cloud, but that was almost instantly swiped from his mind. He hadn't had time to be a teenager, he hadn't had time to pine over gorgeous girls and masturbate to dirty magazines. He had to grow up.

I just want to touch her.

You want to do more than that.

That wasn't nice... it wasn't nice at all to know that the woman who so willingly took care of him and stopped him from falling into some sloppy stumble, who made sure he ate and he slept, and called even when he was away on a delivery to make sure he had done all these things, even though he was out of her house and she really didn't have to worry over him like that. This woman was the subject of his lust.

He wondered if she noticed how stiff he got around her, how he somehow lost his voice. That his favourite beef stroganoff that had been made to perfection with her own godlike talents didn't seem to go down well at dinner time anymore.

He had let it get to this.

Maybe he had always wanted Tifa in that sense, but he'd managed to keep himself in check before. He always managed to keep himself busy from all those so wonderfully nasty thoughts.

He was slipping.

He didn't need a certain ninja— who constantly blamed his callous behaviour to be a side-effect of not being laid for a few centuries (as she had recently put it to him a second time)— to remind him very harshly that his fixation with Tifa had gone beyond the point of affectionate housemate, two very close friends that worked together to make sure that Marlene and Denzel got the life that they deserved, not anymore.

He wanted her. He wanted her more than he ever had.

-Well fucking well come and find me

Oh. Oh fuck.

That did not just happen.

He tripped on his own feet as he ran to the bathroom.

He made no noise accepted for a painful grunt as he turned the water onto a suddenly, full-bore freezing, as he washed the disgust, and the sweat, and the... the mess he had made.

His palm hurt as he slammed it into the tiles, raking his clean nails along the surfaces, as he pushed that feeling back.

He groaned. It was a horrible sound. A dirty, perverted sound. The water hit his skin, icy and sharp, but it only slightly pulled his mind from other things.

Other things.

He could still hear her. Calling his name.

Cloud...

Calling his name like that.

Finally, the sweat was gone; his pants were discarded and decidedly hidden from a view in which Tifa could easily find them— at the very bottom of the trash.

He could still feel the sweat rolling off his neck, a new layer engulfing his skin. Even after that unbearably freezing shower, even after a fresh pair of clothes, even after swearing every curse-word possible in the gaian language, and in the few words he had picked up from Yuffie.

Cloud, I...

His pants strained tighter again. The new pair of pants that was meant to stay clean.

I...

That waist. Those hands. Those lips...

A dream wasn't meant to make it so real.

Cloud, I want you to...

How could he do that to her? Even in a dream? How could he use Tifa like that? Even if she had no idea what had crossed his mind that night, he was degrading her.

I want you...

I want you.

He had taken pleasure— body and mind— at the way his Dream-Tifa had willingly offered her scantily-clad body. He had made her still, but yet so soft, that when he touched her he thought he was going to melt into her warmth.

Touching was something he wasn't allowed to do. Not being able to touch Tifa often left him pondering how smooth her skin looked, how warm it might be, and although he thought that was screwed up enough, it did not cross boundaries.

Now, it was when Dirty-Dream-Cloud decided that he suddenly had permission to touch her with his tongue in certain places...

Cloud buried his face in his hand, threading his fingers through damp, flattened spikes, as he bit his lip and pretended that those images were not racing through his mind again.

Was that why his hand was making its way back down past the elastic of his pants?

It made him angry, and with every cause there came an effect, slowly the happy lifestyle he had led with his silent musings of the bar hostess turned very cold, and very empty. Which also led to a very confused said bar hostess, as well as a pair of worried wards.

He tried to avoid her, and it made it worse. He wasn't only hurting himself along the ride. He watched her eyes shimmer as he gruffly, and very plainly, told her to give him his space. Get him a goddamn beer.

And there it was, the route he thought he'd never take, the one he had joked to himself about, that it wouldn't be a bad idea to become addicted to that strong, mind-numbing liquid. He found himself being the only one left in the bar at night now, long after he had made sure Tifa and the kids had gone to bed; his hands were quivering by the time he got them around whatever he could find. He even went for the scotch, which had never been his preferred alcohol. But there he was, guzzling it down and wasting Tifa's fresh stock that had only just come in the week before, for his arrogant hide.

It managed to drown a good portion of his sickening fantasies under a heavy layer of drunken stupor.

-I'll be waiting...

'So, Cloud, been able to get in Tifa's pants yet?'

'Be quiet, Yuffie.'

'Naw, no luck? No hawt-steamy-love-action?'

'Yuffie, stop it.'

'Come on Spiky, out with the goss! Sooner or later you're gonna—'

'Fuck off.'

Even though he was never particularly nice to his youngest companion, he had cared for her secretly, and had hoped to the gods her arrogant, naive attitude and personality didn't lead her into a dangerous situation.

That was why, when he had clenched his fists to stop himself from leaving a handprint across her face, and he had snapped at her in front of everyone, even the kids, he had shocked more than one person. Including himself. He saw Reeve's eyes narrow warningly, as his hand came to rest on Yuffie's shoulder, and the girl stared at him like she had been slapped, the booms that erupted around him from his other companions, where he heard his name being cursed more than once. It wasn't anyone else's stare that had bothered him, not even the faint gleam in Yuffie's eyes, he blocked it all out.

It was when he saw her eyes, he shattered, and whatever apology he had made to Yuffie was pleading and helpless, all the while he was secretly watching Tifa, hoping that that look would leave her face.

He had made sure he consumed the double amount of alcohol that was now present in his newly chaotic scheme.

-With a gun and a pack of sandwiches

He didn't remember making it to bed that night.

-And nothing...

He didn't remember the two trembling hands that had tucked him in.

-Nothing...

Only the dream, where he saw that look on her face. Even if Yuffie forgave him, he certainly hadn't forgiven himself, not when he knew that look meant she hadn't either.

-You want me?

He wanted to blame Tifa, but despite the level he had sunken to, he wouldn't allow himself to start making up pathetic excuses. It wasn't Tifa who made him a bastard, Tifa never told him to drink like he did. It wasn't her fault he desperately wanted to fuck her brains out.

-Come on and break the door down

'Cloud...?'

It didn't seem so wonderful anymore. He drearily looked up from his arm, which was now red and imprinted with his face. By the time his eyes had cleared, he had registered her familiar scent and those ruby eyes.

He had been caught out.

He narrowed his eyes, and glanced over at the bottle of whiskey that was now levering drastically over the bench on its side. A shaking hand grabbed for it, and he set it straight on the countertop.

'Cloud...'

Stop saying my name.

Yeah, Tifa, stop saying his name, he doesn't want to jack off to you again tonight.

He glared at her through his drooping spikes. 'What, Tifa?' he mumbled. She looked tired, and her hair framed her face messily, with the rest of it cascading down her back.

He watched her bite her lip, watched a light sheen gloss over the pink as she wet it.

Cloud blinked at the sudden realisation of how familiar the shirt she was wearing looked, the one that had disappeared a while ago— he couldn't remember if it was before everything had begun to crumble. It reached her thighs, almost like a dress, his black shirt giant and hanging loosely on her smaller shoulders, baring thin but muscular arms. Her graceful neck and a fair amount of the pale skin of her collarbone was bare and glaring at him. He was thankful for the tank that hid the part of her chest that his shirt most definitely would not.

His eyes flickered back to her face lazily.

'I think you need to go to bed.' she said softly.

He didn't know what to say, so he just stared at her. He saw how tired she was, with the bags under eyes caused by sleepless nights.

He suddenly realised how had been getting to bed this past week.

She nudged her head toward the stairs. 'Come on...' her hand began to reach for his arm.

Please, please don't touch me...

You're killing the poor man. Or at least his penis.

He growled in warning, and she drew back immediately, her face perfecting calmness. 'Do you want me to help you?'

'No.' He went to reach for his glass, only to find it upturned, empty. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, suddenly hit by the throbbing in his temple and the resistance his body slammed against him, refusing to allow him his seating on the stool any longer. She moved back respectively as he climbed down awkwardly in a drunken stupor, raking a hand through his spikes. His mind twirled, the room seemed to condense one moment and then expand the next.

'I'm going to bed,' he grumbled through a slight slur, stumbling uselessly out into the room.

Tifa bit her lip. 'Are you sure you don't need help?

'Yes.'

She sighed, and it only took a short pause for her to reinstate her never-ending care for him. Ignoring his words, she carefully moved behind his back, ready to catch him if he fell. 'Come on; let's get you up to bed...'

She pressed her hand to his shoulder, and gave it a gentle squeeze.

-You want me? Fucking come on and break the door down

He felt the jolt that slammed down his spine, well aware that her smaller body was slowly pressing up against his from behind. He felt the strain; he felt the familiar suspicion of desire crash through him. He shrugged her off violently, watching slight fear fill her eyes as he turned— awkwardly in his alcohol-induced state— and snapped at her face, 'Damn it, Tifa! Just... Just leave me alone, okay?'

Just leave me alone.

He's lying, he totally wants to nail you.

Cloud watched her lip tremble.

'What happened?' she said weakly, in a voice that made his heart hurt. 'What went wrong?'

He turned away with a disgusted frown. He knew it was misleading, that really the frown was directed at himself, and knowing Tifa she probably thought it was for her. Cloud's body gave a slow rotation, he found himself heading toward the stairs, with all his stumbling and stifling. 'Leave me alone, Teef. Don't waste your time.' he murmured coldly, watching the room sway.

It wasn't fair. It honestly wasn't fair that she was so devoted to him. He had hoped his harsh words would send her away, but of course, this was Tifa, Tifa put people before herself, Tifa always let him hurt her, again and again, like some kind of masochist.

And goddamn it he hated her because he loved her so much.

Don't follow me. Don't touch me. Don't say my name. Don't you dare provoke me into doing anything, Tifa...

But Tifa never gave up... not even when she had tears in her eyes, ready to stream down her face. She did all those things— he felt the floorboards creak beneath his boots more than he had heard her. Her hand was once again on his shoulder, and it once again sent another rush of blood to course painfully through his body.

And she said his name... she said his name so helplessly, so softly...

And it sounded so very familiar.

Cloud, I want...

-I'm ready...

It only took moments, even with the whiskey that sloshed through him, to have his hands on her, to have her forced against the counter, to have his mouth buried somewhere down her graceful neck.

All of it only registered moments later.

He had hurt her when he had slammed her back into the bench. He had bruised her mouth with the demands his lips brought on, his teeth. She wasn't ready for the hardness he brought on in between her legs or his hands on her body.

Through it all, he faintly recalled how nice her mouth tasted, and how horrible he must have felt, so rough, with the flavour of whiskey.

His mind didn't even comprehend if she had struggled or not, or if she had asked him to stop, but he felt the unrelenting yank of her hands on his clothes, that was enough for him. He had a firm hand on her boxer-clad thigh, and his hips were almost violently grinding against her.

He was doing this to Tifa, after years of wanting her and weeks of dreaming about it, he had his body on her. And he wasn't sure if it felt natural, or if in his succumbing desire a desperation came the false security that made everything better. Either way he didn't know how he could held back for so long, sat there watching her when he could have been doing this.

She was making noises. That he remembered. Those little whimpers, hot on his ear.

Her underwear was around her ankles with the small shorts and his own pants were eagerly trying to be ripped open. He grunted at the annoyance of his belt, very sure he had broken the buckle through his struggling.

Then, he paused.

She was a sight he didn't want to forget.

Flushed pink and tousled, he knew by the look in her eyes, either things had moved too quickly and she hadn't yet gotten a good grip on reality, or that look was truly mirroring the one he himself had. Now he knew that she wasn't going anywhere, he took his time to note the wonderful, full curve of her bottom lip between his teeth. This time, he waited for her own response instead of demanding one, and her tongue came forward shyly to brush along the inside of his mouth.

Her legs were clenched around him and her frantic hands— always, always frantic— were shaking and clutching at the small hairs on the back of his neck.

He didn't waste any time, he was moving inside her. And god, she felt wonderful.

The only thing on his mind was remembering every other moment in his life when he had had a woman like this, how he had all imagined them to be Tifa Lockhart.

Her head fell back, and his mouth was somewhere on her chest and neck trying to make marks on her skin, while he was busily trying to satisfy his rather deprived extremity (as Yuffie had delicately put it) inside her. He knew he was using her for his own benefit. Catching her off guard, riding her up against the bar wasn't at all what she deserved, not for their first time together.

But she took it, and just bit her lip and continued to make those noises, if he became too violent and gave a slam that would have harmed her, bruised her thoroughly, her nails dug into his skin. He grunted some form of apology and lowered his head to hide his face in the crook of her strained neck, and he concentrated on her hips and those thrusts into her, on the way her full breasts pressed into him. He was getting annoyed at the shirt of hers, the layers that were hiding the rest of her sweat-laden flesh.

She whimpered again as his hand slipped beneath the black shirt— his black shirt— and underneath the tank, and brushed his hands over her chest.

He watched her arch, pushing into his palm, and he felt her trembling.

He felt his own shudders moments later, and it only took a few more hard thrusts for him to ride out what he considered one of the best orgasms he had ever had in his life. And he was fairly certain she was on the brink of something and that it had spilled over through those lingering moments, because he'd felt her moan into his neck and tighten around him.

And then he felt them slump.

No noise, just heavy sweat through their clothes, and sore bodies from being in this uncomfortable position for too long.

He shook his head weakly, her hot breath moving through the clothes on his broad shoulder that she was currently resting against. He slowly removed himself from between her legs, still keeping her up against the bar.

She was silent for a long moment and clung to him as he moved to yank his pants on properly. She felt him carefully, gently, lift her up to rest on the bench, as he gingerly gathered her underwear and her boxers, and slid them back up her legs.

A heavy silence consumed them for a long moment, the cool night air began to dry the sweat on their skin, and although he felt like burying himself in the furthest part of the planet and hoped that he rotted away painfully like he deserved, Cloud couldn't find the strength to move.

He dared to venture a look into her eyes. What he saw was utter blankness.

'I'm sorry.' He had never heard his voice sound so pathetic.

She replied with the suffocating silence, which only added to the pain her horribly confused eyes gave him.

Slap me, please. Hit me. Swear at me. Tell me to leave and never come back.

Tifa shifted, between the hands that were plastered on the bench either side of her hips, life suddenly returning to her eyes.

'I thought...' she whispered, her voice sounding just as pathetic as his did. She blinked, biting her lip for a long moment as she seemed to ponder something in her mind. 'I thought Yuffie was being stupid when she told me that... that you wanted to screw me.' There was nothing amusing in neither her words nor her tone. 'You thought I wouldn't want you.'

He cringed at her blunt statement. He remembered all too well her wondrous little whimpers he had heard ringing in his ears moments earlier.

'I couldn't... I couldn't touch you, Tifa,' he said, cracking and strained. 'I wanted to, all the time. I...' he lifted a hand from beside her hip, and slowly brought it to the side of her jaw. When he saw no resistance other than slight stiffening, he let his fingertips brush the curve of her neck. It felt so unnatural to touch her, even after everything. 'I watched every other man touch you. I watched... I watched Barret, Vincent touch you...' the whisky was catching up to him now, adding slur to his voice. 'Even if they didn't mean it like that, they still got to... and I was afraid to.'

He gently began to stroke her skin with his rough fingers, taking in everything that had always been so alien to him. He watched her thick, dark lashes flutter closed over her tired eyes. Cloud brushed the mess of hair that was stuck to her cheek, tucking it behind the curve of her ear.

He froze, however, as her gentle hand came up to press against his rough knuckles, keeping his palm to her cheek. He was surprised to feel they were marred as well, not as badly as his, but they were hard-skinned, revealing how much they had gone through. Her thumbs swirled patterns across the callus bumps of his knuckles.

Tifa's head tilted slightly, her hand making sure his own followed her cheek. He couldn't read the expression on her face, no matter how hard he tried to. A certain emotion was making her brows pinch together, and her mouth twitch. 'Are you still afraid?' she whispered.

Cloud swallowed hard, but he couldn't reply, her soft lips were on his, and tremors went through him at the light touch and her warm breath. He felt her free hand smooth through the unruly, drooping spikes of his hair timidly.

When she drew away, she gazed into his eyes expectantly.

Even after what I did to her, she still kisses me, and pretends everything is alright.

Maybe because it is, you idiot.

Even though that voice was harsh, it did not leave the same effect on him as it did before. Cloud shook his head gently.

'I am,' he murmured, but to quickly bury the flicker of worry in her eyes, he brushed the tip of his thumb across the side of her mouth. 'But I'm not afraid of touching you anymore.'

Tifa released her breath. 'What are you afraid of...?' he didn't like the way her voice sounded, it matched the sudden look on her face. More than worry. He felt that if he said the wrong words, she was going to shatter. He would ruin everything.

'Of hurting you,' he forced out, through the lump in his throat. 'If you... if you love me back, I'm afraid that I'll hurt you, sooner or later.'

His heart pounded at that word. He watched her mouth part slightly, and he knew hers was racing just as fast as his.

In a twisted, strange way, Cloud Strife may or may not have just admitted to her that he loved her, and for some reason, like he usually did, whenever he almost had the right amount of courage just to say it outright, he didn't feel like curling up in the corner and hiding.

'You think you would?' she murmured, very unsurely.

I'm always hurting you.

Are you sick and tired of thinking you can't have her yet? You done self-loathing?

Yes.

'Tifa?'

'Yes, Cloud?'

'Let me try again.' he was glad his voice didn't squeak like he thought it would. He shuffled closer to her, sliding his hand attentively out from underneath hers. He placed both of them on her knees, brushing the bare skin. He felt the bumps prickle along her pale flesh. 'Let me do it right this time.'

I don't want to have to watch you anymore.

He brushed her knees apart gently, stepping between her thighs. 'Let me take you somewhere else.'

You don't deserve it like this. You didn't deserve it the first time.

She nodded shyly. 'Okay, Cloud.' She rested her hands on his shoulders, as he wound his arms around her tightly, lifting her up. She was light against him, with her legs hooked on his hips.

I don't really deserve you.

If you didn't you wouldn't have her.

'Cloud,' she whispered by his ear, tickling the sensitive skin, making him swallow hard. Her chin buried against his neck as he moved along the floorboards, careful of the places he knew squeaked. 'No more alcohol, okay?'

He could feel the liquid still warming him. He was still in that pleasant haze, where the world was bearable. Or at least it used to be. He felt sickened that it was rushing through him like that, controlling him. When he had Tifa against him, when he was taking her upstairs. When he was going to show her that it didn't have to be like that— that he could be gentle Cloud, who loved her, who could make love to her like she was the most beautiful thing in his life. That he was the Cloud who hated what he had become.

The pain of the past few weeks raced through his mind, of what he had done to everyone, of what he had done to himself. It all felt like a disgusting nightmare.

He nodded firmly at her request. 'Tifa?'

'Mm?'

Tifa held onto him tighter when she felt the broken man grip her like she was his only lifeline, shaking.

'I'm sorry,' he murmured, his voice shattered. 'I'm sorry for everything.'

They reached the bottom of the steps, just as she began to warm his cheeks with her kisses.

It was by some miraculous mistake of the gods that two unexpected people stumbled upon this exchange. One— in a suit, a prim goatee, exhausted, and holding two cups of coffee. The other small, decidedly ninja-like, and perhaps never tired, especially when coffee was involved. It was urgency that had brought them to 7th Heaven, paperwork regarding a highly important mission tucked into his coat. While he did not like to disturb others needlessly, this needed a disturbance. And the presence of Yuffie was maybe, perhaps, that she'd been in his bed when he received an important phone call.

'You think I should totally rub it in his fat face?'

Reeve gazed at her in a reprimanding manner for a long moment as he came up behind her, his breath fogging against the nights chill. His ninja stood at the window, binoculars plastered in her hands, watching the window intently. He didn't even bother to ask where the hell she had gotten those binoculars from.

'Do you want your coffee or not?'

'The cheap stuff or the expensive stuff?'

'Why would I let my sweet Yuffie endure cheap coffee?' he drawled sarcastically, and pushed the expresso coffee cup toward her, earning himself a small squeal from the troublesome ninja. 'Have you seen enough? I think you should leave the man alone. Leave both of them alone. The papers can wait until morning.' he remarked, shaking his head as she completely disregarded the heat coming from the drink, most likely singeing her tongue painfully on the brown liquid. She continued to ramble anyway.

'He owes me big time now, making him realise all that. After how rude he was to me before. What good luck we stumbled across this, eh?'

For him, it was very bad luck.

He sipped tentatively at his own warm drink as she went about her plotting. 'Not really.' he replied.

'You didn't have to stick around you know.' she retorted, glaring at his bored, exhausted face.

'Yes, I did.'

'Why?'

'I wasn't going to leave you all alone out here, Yuffie.'

'Why?'

'Because.'

She snorted. 'Fine, you deviant bastard. I didn't need you at all though— well okay, maybe I did, you were on coffee-duty.'

'It really was a great expedition. Watching a drunk Cloud through the window, leaving my nice warm bed to stand out here freezing my ass off.' he said dryly.

'Well maybe if you'd let work wait until morning, we wouldn't be here.'

He couldn't argue with that.

'Oh, well. At least we get to sleep in.'

'You get to sleep in,' he shot back. 'I have to go to work.'

'Oh yeah. Sucked in.' she snickered, and cut him off before the older man could retort. 'Cloud moved pretty hard and fast there, huh? It was kinda hawt.'

Reeve swallowed the lump in his throat. 'Yuffie.' he groaned.

'Oh come on, I looked away when things got icky,' she growled, chugging her coffee down. The couple through the window had now disappeared up the stairs, and the bar stood empty and silent. 'Oh, what luck! I knew it would happen. Come on, didn't I say it would happen?'

He sighed. 'Yes, you did.'

'Yeah, you mind repeating my words of wisdom?'

'"Soon Cloud is going to snap and freakin' ride Tifa up against the bar or something, and I'll totally catch him in the act so that I can rub it in his face".' He mimicked, flicking his wrists in addition to his girlishly pitched voice. Reeve rubbed his face down tiredly. 'You should be very proud of yourself, princess. Can we go home now? And leave these poor people alone?'

'Alright Mr Grumpy-pants. Can we stop for coffee?'

'Yuffie.'

'Okay, okay, sheesh...'

They prodded back to his car, which was parked a few blocks away. Yuffie was too silent for his liking.

Suddenly, 'Reeve?'

'Mm?'

'Would you completely snap like that and do me up against a wall, or something?'

He blinked in surprise. A smirk curled at the side of his mouth. 'No.'

'No?'

'I wouldn't snap like that.'

'If I annoyed you enough? Maybe we should experiment and totally get you drunk, and then I'll just pester you, and then I'll—'

'Yuffie,' he placed a hand on her arm, slowly, squeezing it warningly. 'I don't need an excuse to fuck your brains out against a wall, least of all being drunk.' He kissed her cheek and smiled cheerfully, speeding up to reach the car first.

Yuffie faltered. 'Oh.'

Reeve smirked to himself, until he felt the girl catch up to hook her arm into his.

A/N Edit:

I have gone through and edited this.. spelling mistakes and revising and whatnot, and if there is still some in there, I am terribly sorry.Bottom of Form

Edit #2: Edited again, changed the whole Reeve/Yuffie scene to make it more realistic, finally. I much prefer it, but am debating getting rid of it altogether. Thank you for the wonderful reviews, you lovely people! x