She's All That

A/N: Hi all! I'm back with another chapter! But before you start reading, I think I forgot to make something clear from the previous chapter, regarding Cloud and his rumor, lol. It's probably obvious, or if it wasn't, whatever, I'll still explain: Basically, a couple of girls decided to start a rumor about him being gay because he ignores all the girls that hit on him. Yup, they have no life. Simple..and silly, I know. But yeah! If you haven't noticed already, my chapters keep getting longer and longer! I tried to tone it down, but I've got so much to write -____-. Anyway, things are starting to get interesting, so without further ado, please continue reading and enjoy!! :)

Chapter 7

It was times like this Tifa cursed her unbelievably terrible luck to a great extent. How she had ended up in that dark and shady corner was beyond her knowledge. As if that wasn't enough trouble, her curiosity got the better of her as crates full of alcohol caught her attention.

And then she had to trip.

Of all things that a girl could do in an uncertain situation, she decided to trip. Over a stupid glass bottle, too.

How she wished she could take said bottle and crash it upon her head. Though that was a little difficult at the moment, judging by the tight, heart sinking circumstance she had just fallen into. Yes, it was quite difficult to even do so much as anything, not when an oversized, dark skinned angry man had just gripped her arm, immediately yanking her inside the door.

His dark eyes glared straight into her wide ones as she now stood in the warmth of what seemed like a bar. It was nice and spacey, nothing like she had predicted it to be judging by the outside. But now was not the time to think about that, no, definitely not. Not when—

"Eh, what the hell d'you think you're doin?! Tryna pull somethin on me, huh?!" he demanded as his grip on her arm tightened, jerking her forward.

Gulp.

"I…I—uhm..didn't—"she stuttered, eyes wide as saucers as she stared back at the angry man.

"What's that? Speak up ya fool!"

"I, I'm sorry…!" she blurted. " It was an accident, I swear! Please, I wasn't trying to steal anything…I'm sorry…! If there is anything I can do—"

"Damn right there's somethin'." The angered man opened his palm out, drawing his fingers back and forth, "Cough it up, girl. That was plenty of good rum that went straight ta waste and I ain't paying for it, you understand?"

Tifa stared at his outstretched hand before glancing up at him again, "B-But I don't—I don't have any money on me…!"

The man blinked at her, shrugging his enormous shoulders, "And that's my problem because…? Look little girl, I don't care if it was an accident, I don't work day and night to run this bar so I can let accidents happen."

"I can repay you! Just..I don't have anything on me right now—and I promise! As soon as I find a job I'll give you however much you want! That's what—"

"How old are you?"

"…Uh—eighteen,"

"Fine. You're hired."

"What?" Tifa asked dubiously.

The dark man only frowned, "You heard me. From now on, you're workin' for me."

"What? No, w-wait—!" She couldn't possibly work at a bar?!

"Eh! Girl, either hand over the dough right now or you work for me from here on. Choice is yours. " He turned around and headed over to a small closet, pulling out a broom before calling out someone's name.

"Rose!"

Tifa bowed her head, eyes glued to the black and white tiled floor. What had she gotten herself into?! She didn't have any money and –damnit! Curse her clumsiness! Why was she so full of it? She sighed. She didn't have much choice now…maybe this could be a good thing, it wasn't like she had any job offers awaiting her reply, anyway…so, this may be her only chance…

"Rosalie!" he called again.

"Hold your goddamn horses, Barret, I'm coming."

An indolent and drawl-like response sounded from Tifa's right, and she lifted her head to see a slender figure saunter unhurriedly towards the two. With her golden blonde hair twisted messily on top her head, boldly defined eyes and red lips, the attractive woman reminded her of an old actress she had seen on television.

Her heavy boots came to a stop ad upon noticing the presence of the brunette, her eye brows shot up.

"Oh, what do we have here? Didn't I tell you it was wrong to pick up little girls off the street, Barret?" she nonchalantly asked.

The man, supposedly named Barret, scowled at the blonde before glaring at Tifa again, "This little pest was minglin' in the back doin' God knows what." He filled her in about the accident and his deal.

Rosalie kept her gaze on the brunette as one corner of her lips lifted, "Oh?" She crossed her arms and took a step closer, her feet falling into a circular motion as she surrounded the latter.

Tifa felt unusually conscious of herself as the blonde woman's bright eyes studied her.

"Hmm," the blonde began as she tapped a scarlet nail against her cheek, "…Nice height…"she murmured to herself, "good posture, I see…your bosom's not that bad either, eh?" she winked.

Tifa immediately covered her chest with her arms, feeling extremely embarrassed, but the lady ignored it. Instead she stopped in front of her, narrowing her eyes in concentration. All Tifa could do was stare back, feeling incredibly confused.

At last, her red lips twisted cunningly as she turned to look at the man waiting patiently behind her.

"I think she's perfect" The blonde purred before turning back to a very puzzled Tifa. Her fingers feathered against a loose strand of her dark hair, "Just need a little bit of tweaking, but you'll do."

…tweaking?

"So, what will it be? I ain't got all day y'know," came Barret's gruff voice.

Tifa stood there as the pair stared at her expectantly. She swallowed, it was now or never.

It wasn't two seconds before she half heartedly agreed to work to work for him, Tifa found herself being dragged deep inside the bar by an eager Rosalie. She yanked her in what looked to be a small dressing room and at once she began rummaging through a chest of drawers that sat next to a tall mirror.

Tifa paled when the blonde women turned around, holding a pair of scissors.

"What…are you going to do with those?"

"Oh, nothing that you need to worry about." Rosalie smiled wickedly.

Oh, Boy.

---

It was well past midnight when Cloud pulled up in his driveway. He was still dressed in his uniform, a red polo shirt and black slacks, though he was let off work hours ago. He and Zack had gone straight to Reno's after. The three of them had been so absorbed in playing video games that they lost track of time.

Cloud had only taken a step inside his house when he heard a feminine laugh sounding from the kitchen. It was his mom. He wasn't expecting her till tomorrow morning. Silently, he swung the door closed but paused when a deeper voice reached his ears.

"Damn, your smell is driving me crazy, baby."

His jaw tightened and before he knew it, he was striding straight down the hall as his eyes caught his mother against the counter, a tall, dark haired man leaning over her.

"What the hell is he doing here?" Cloud snarled, immediately startling the two. Amy Strife jumped, slipping out of the man's embrace.

"Cloud!"

"Your greetings get politer each day," Eric remarked dryly as he turned his head.

"Glad you noticed." Cloud narrowed his eyes.

"Cloud! Where were you?!" Ms. Strife crossed her arms, "Do you know what time it is?"

"Yeah, I happen to know. What the hell, Mom," he raised his arms, "What's he doing here at one in the morning?!"

Eric stepped forward and cleared his throat, "Well, I just dropped by to say hello, I was just leaving—"

"Oh, and what a nice hello it was." Cloud snapped.

"Well, yes, it was, actually." Cloud rolled his eyes, if his mom wasn't around he'd punch that smirk off his face right there.

"Cloud, that's enough!" Ms. Strife cut in, "Don't you think you're being a little hypocritical right now?"

"Yeah. Only difference is I was at a friend's house and—" he stopped, "Oh, but you two are friends, too right? Friends with benefits, I suppose?"

Ms. Strife went pink. Then she frowned and crossed her arms, "That's none of your business, Cloud."

"I think it is."

"You're just a kid, Cloud," Eric offered his two cents. He shook his head, "There are things you won't understand—"

"And you need to keep your crap to yourself." Cloud rounded on him.

"Cloud! There's no reason why you should be taking your anger out on Eric. You have a problem, go deal with it in your room."

"Yeah," Eric stepped forward, "Maybe a little happy time will take the stress off your mind."

Cloud glared at the man. His green eyes challenged him as he leaned against the counter, his lips curved triumphantly. Oh, how he wished he could walk right up to him and smash his face. Who the hell did this guy think he was? Fucking Asshole. He ground his teeth and inhaled deeply through his nose, the blood was rushing to his head, pounding so hard against his skull it hurt.

A hand on his arm had him looking away. Pleading eyes told him to let it go. She had beautiful eyes, his mother. They were kind and warm, like bottled honey and golden caramel. But no matter how soft those eyes were, his head didn't stop pounding. In fact, it was getting worse.

"Cloud, please—"

He jerked his arm out of her grasp and turned, "Screw this. I'm outta here."

The door slammed shut behind him as he closed his eyes and took in the outside air, the cold autumn breeze rushing down his throat. He sat down on his porch, resting his arms against his knees as he looked off into the distance. The sky was dim tonight, there were barely any stars out and the moon was only a thin crescent. The darned streetlights weren't even working right now. The wind whistled down the silent street, picking up lonely, crisp leaves in its wake as the trees swayed in harmony.

He could understand why his mother was attracted to him, what with his tousled dark hair, olive skin, and his sharp, charming features. It was enough to have any woman fawning over him at his feet, but it didn't take an idiot to catch the underlying sly intentions. She should know better to think dating this man would ever make her as happy as she used to be when her husband was alive.

It was just so infuriating to see her all over him! She acted so different when she's with him. Was she really blind? Were all women like this?!

He ran a hand through his hair. He didn't even know why he was getting so worked up. It was her life; she could do whatever she wanted.

The murky street unexpectedly lit up as the sound of an engine reached Cloud's ears. He watched as a minivan rushed down the street and immediately skidded to an abrupt stop near his house. He squinted his eyes and frowned in the dark.

The passenger's door slowly opened and muffled voices carried out in the open. Someone stepped out. The wind picked up again and blue eyes caught sight of billowing long, dark hair.

"Remember. Tomorrow. Seven thirty!" a woman sounded from inside.

"Thanks for the ride," came a familiar mumble.

…Tifa?...Tifa?

Woah, what was she doing out this late?

The car sped off, and the street was dark and quiet again. Cloud watched as Tifa turned and briskly began walking up her driveway but when she came closer she froze. Even if it was dark, he knew she had spotted him. He had to admit, he must've looked pretty freaky right now, sitting still on the steps of his porch in the middle of the night as if it was the most normal thing to do. If he wasn't so pissed right now he would've scared her or even teased her, asking her if she was aware it was well past her bedtime, or if she just got back from visiting her home planet.

"…Cloud?"

Noo. It's Santa Claus.

She sounded tentative, almost reluctant. And then he realized. That was the first time she had said his name. Huh, again, if he wasn't so pissed, he'd tease her about that, too. It did sound a bit weird coming from her.

"Hey." God, he sounded so dead.

"…Hi." He heard her feet shuffle against the pavement, "W, what are you doing out here?"

"Stalking you." He didn't know where that came from.

She grimaced, he could tell. She shook her head, "Are you…okay?"

He let his eyes wander over her shady face, "If I said no, what would you do?"

She was quiet for a moment, and then she tucked a hair behind her ear,"…I'd try and help."

He raised his brows as he rested his cheek against his palm. "Really."

"...Yes,"

Okay, something wasn't right.

She just asked him if he was okay. And then she said she'd help him if he wasn't. There's gotta be something wrong with her. Did she get drunk? Did she get dragged by a couple of street punks and get high off of doobies?

He gave a low chuckle as an image of a girl wearing braids and glasses huddled around a group of punks smoking marijuana came into mind.

"What?" she asked, sounding slightly offended.

He shook his head, a small smile on his lips. "I'm okay," he stood up, "Thanks, though."

"Okay," she nodded.

He gazed at her as he reached for the door. "See you at school,"

"Good night," she said lightly.

Tifa heard Cloud's door click shut as she took the final step to her porch. Quietly as possible, she dug her key through the knob and slowly entered. Fortunately she had called earlier, informing her father that she'd be late, and that he should go to bed since her 'friend' offered to give her a ride.

Slipping out of her shoes, she rubbed her eyes and stifled a yawn. A quick glance at the clock told her it was almost two. She sighed and crept up the stairs, avoiding the creak on the third step. She was so tired, she didn't even feel like reflecting back on what just happened at the bar. All that filled her mind was the irrefutable need of some good shut eye.

---

He kicked the ball as it collided with a thud against the tall tree. He'd been at it for the past thirty minutes, practicing his shooting skills. He'd gotten better, much better. But it wasn't enough to make the juniors' elementary school soccer team. Most of the team consisted of third and fourth graders, he was only in second. He didn't matter to them.

He heard the clanking of pots from inside the house and sighed. He hadn't meant to hurt her, it just…happened. What was he supposed to do when that stupid rich boy insulted him in front of everyone in gym class? Just stand there as the others laughed at him? Because he would 'never be good at anything but sweeping the floor in his mom's kitchen'? All because he didn't have a father to raise him.

His mother cried when he came home, a large bruise on the side of his face. She said if his dad was here, then things would've been better. She missed his dad. He would have to, but he never got to know him. He died weeks before he was born.

It pained Cloud to see her this way. He hated it.

He hated Rufus ShinRa and his stupid rich family.

He swore that one day, he'd be just as good as him. Better, even. Then his mom won't cry. She won't miss his dad so much because Cloud would be there. And he'll take good care of his mother.

The sound of giggling danced to his ears and he scowled, narrowing blue eyes as he glanced sideways. There were four or five girls playing with a skipping rope, jumping and squealing with laughter. They were so annoying. Especially her. Stupid her.

It wasn't fair that she had it made, that she didn't have to try. She was just like Rufus. It wasn't fair. Not when he had to work for it, not when he had to watch in envy as everyone adored her because she was so smart and cute and fabulous.

He kicked the ball harder.

She was an eyesore.

"Hi!"

Cloud groaned.

It took a moment for him to drag bored eyes to meet those lively ones.

"What do you want."

"Are you okay?" her eyebrows pinched in concern, eyeing the band aid on his cheek, "I heard about what happened."

"I'm fine." Cloud looked away.

"…Okay." He was glad she didn't push further. "Then," she tucked a strand of dark, luscious hair behind her ear before clasping her hands together behind her back, "Wanna come play with us? We need one more player."

He snorted.

"As if I'm dying to play Ring Around the Rosie with a bunch of girls," Cloud muttered as he walked over to the tree, picking the soccer ball with his small hands.

"Girls can be just as fun as boys, you know." Tifa crossed her arms, "And we're not playing Ring Around the Rosie!"

"Then what is it? Having a tea party? House House? Playing with Barbies?" The girl opened her mouth, but he cut her off, "Sorry, but I've got more important things to do."

"Like what?" she chirped, genuinely curious now as she lightly bounced her heels.

"What does it look like?"

"You're practicing for try outs, aren't you?" she smiled knowingly, "Can I help?"

"Please. You'll only trip and fall, and then start crying. Soccer's no sport for a girl like you." Cloud snorted as the ball bounced off the tree, rolling to a stop near Tifa's feet.

"Girls can be just as good!" she frowned.

"Yeah, okay. Maybe in your dreams."

And before he could even react, the ball came flying at him with full speed as it collided right between his legs. He doubled over, hands flying to the victimized area as he watched Tifa spin on her heel with her nose in the air.

"Hmph."

---

The outrageous, high ended shriek that echoed across the room left a satisfying smirk on Cloud's lips as he set the now empty glass on the side table. Call him heartless, cruel, and cold, but there was noway in hell he was letting this bastard live in peace after mistaking him for Scarlet. As if that girl would ever be found early morning waking Zack up for soccer practice.

Zack whipped around as bewildered eyes landed on his best friend.

"What the fuuck was that for?!" he yelped.

"For being a dick." came Cloud's automatic reply. He threw a bundle of navy blue and grey at Zack's face on his way out the door. "You've got fifteen minutes."

Zack blinked in surprise before glancing at the calendar hanging on the wall beside him. "Shit!" he moaned as he flopped back against the bed, "Right when I was getting to the good part, too!"

He quickly rolled out of bed, grabbed his things and ran for the bathroom.

Half an hour later, the two found themselves running countless laps around the soccer field. Quick, ragged breaths rushed past Cloud's lips as he pushed further, feeling the strenuous strain building up along his leg muscles. His heart beat loud in his ears as he slowed down, his feet kicking heavily against the soil beneath. He spotted Reno and a few others slowing down not too far behind him.

"QUIT STALLIN' AND MOVE YOUR PANSY ASSES FORWARD!" barked Cid, their coach, as he stood on the side with a cigarette hanging from his mouth, a clipboard in his hands.

"Come on, team! Man up a little!"

Cloud glanced sideways as Zack caught up with them. It irked him to see the guy so cheerful this early in the morning. Just a while ago he was snoring like an oblivious pig. How he could switch from one mode to another so quickly, Cloud had no idea.

Sure, Zack could be a goofball at times. He was a funny guy. But when it came to soccer and team spirit, Zack was quick on his feet, determined and full of perseverance. His dedication, leadership and great skill were only a few reasons why he was captain of the Midgar Wolves.

Cloud huffed before shooting his feet off the ground again.

But Zack's grip on the game was slipping, and Cloud wasn't the only one who had become aware of it. He'd already missed two practices, and Cid definitely didn't take that as a good sign. If Zack didn't pull his act together and break up with his stupid, controlling girlfriend soon, he'd be in big, big trouble.

---

It was strangely quiet.

Strange, but pleasantly so. With soft, sunny warmth tickling her skin and the faint hum of the autumn breeze whispering in her ears, Tifa felt as if she hadn't slept this well for a long time. A puff of air rushed past her parted lips and she turned over under her blanket, sighing into her pillow. If only she could wake up to a morning like this every day. Where there was no rush, no catastrophe, damage or chaos…

No school…

Wait…no school?

NO SCHOOL?!?!

Eyes snapped open as they quickly collided with the clock.

It was five minutes to ten.

A strangled shriek left her lips and within a single heartbeat she scrambled out of bed, feet shuffling as she hastily grabbed her clothes for the day. School, school, school, school! How could she have possibly woken up this late on a school day?!

The peaceful atmosphere that lingered only moments ago and been thrown straight out the window as the brunette rushed in panic around her room.

How could she have slept in this late?! This was total outrage! This couldn't be happening!

Her feet nearly collided against the dresser as she suddenly caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror.

She paused.

It wasn't like much had changed, just that her hair tenderly framed her face with soft and textured layers instead of lying limp and lifeless like it had always had. Her hand lightly brushed against her new bangs, moving them away to skim a finger against her eyebrows as she recalled in pain how Rosalie had unsympathetically plucked the stray hairs out.

It would take a while getting used to it…

The time caught her attention again and she cursed, remembering that she was in the middle of hurrying. Tifa grabbed her hairbrush, quickly running it through her dark locks before using her fingers.

Her heart sank.

"Shit. Shit. Shit!!" she should've known having her hair cut in so many layers couldn't possibly be braided without half of it slipping back out! The brush cluttered against the dresser as she haphazardly ran fingers through her hair again.

Why, why, why had the day already sunk this low already?

She sighed and glared at herself, gathering her long hair high on her head before she secured it with an elastic band. Her bangs and a few more strands slid out, but it did more justice than the braids. Without another glance she grabbed her bag and thundered down the stairs.

There was no time for breakfast, not when she had just missed her first period class and was about to miss her appointment with the guidance counselor. She was nearly out the door when the sharp ring of the telephone sprung from the kitchen. She moaned.

"Hello?!" she breathed.

"Tifa?" it was her dad. "Hey, you feeling okay? You didn't get up for school so I figured you'd be staying home…"

"No, I'm fine! I guess I forgot to set my alarm the other night but I'm going to school right now!"

"Oh, okay, be careful then."

"I will, Dad, I'm getting late so I should –"

"Oh yeah, I forgot to ask you about your job…any good news?"

Her heart skipped a beat. Yeah she got a job, but …she wasn't entirely sure if he'd consider working at a bar good news. "Y-yeah can I tell you about that later? Sorry, I'm really late for school."

"Sure, pumpkin. Have a good day."

"Thanks, Dad. Bye!"

As soon as she hung up she dashed out the door.

---

"Yuffie," Cloud hissed as he stood next to the doorway of classroom number 102, Madame Brown's French class. He could spot Yuffie's tiny frame sprawled over a desk near the corner of the room, chewing pink bubblegum as she idly twirled her pencil between her fingers. He'd been trying to get her attention for the last minute but to no avail, she was too deaf. Or too busy daydreaming about Vincent.

He rolled his eyes. For a self proclaimed oh, so mighty and great ninja, she was pretty inattentive to her surroundings.

Pulling out his phone, he quickly texted her.

Come out for a while. I'm bored

He watched with a smirk as she jumped when suddenly, her stupid jingle rung loudly in the blunt silence. Her classmates stirred, turning their heads towards the back of the room, some amused while others relieved of focusing on anything than the black board.

'Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?

Don't you wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?

Don't cha—'

"Mademoiselle Kisaragi, please turn off that music before I take that thing away from you!"

"Uh—!" Yuffie fumbled with her phone , "Sorry!" she gave a nervous laugh.

Several girls giggled, "Oh my God, it's been ages since I've heard that song!"

Cloud shook his head. Hadn't she ever heard of the vibrate option?

After sliding her phone shut, Yuffie turned, eyes wandering until they collided with his. She glared at him. "What?!"

Cloud motioned with his hand for her to come out.

"I can't!" she mouthed out to him as she quickly glanced back at her teacher, and then lowered her gaze to her phone.

She said I've gone on too many bathroom breaks this week! :(

And to think…it was only Wednesday.

He rolled his eyes at her and she pouted.

Well, so much for killing off time with Yuffie…He sighed. He'd have to find someone else to bother.

Loser, he texted back, only because he couldn't resist. He pushed off the wall he'd been leaning on and grinned when the ringtone started up again.

"Mademoiselle KISARAGI!!"

Cloud pushed his hands in his pockets, still smiling as he turned down the hallway. He passed a few classrooms on his way and wondered if he should just go to his own class. He didn't want to though; the mere sight of Mr. Hojo's long greasy hair, crooked nose, and the million wrinkles around his mouth had Cloud snoring at his desk. Though he'd tolerate it most days, he just didn't feel like seeing this mad scientist today.

Regardless, skipping second period was no good. The hallways were fairly quiet and none of his friends had been in the cafeteria when he'd last checked. Zack had Data Management, and he insisted on going to class because he couldn't take his eyes off this pretty girl—which, by the way, wasn't his girlfriend— who sat at the front of the class. Anyone would be better than her, in any case.

He nearly stopped in his tracks when the school's back door swung open and a disheveled Tifa rushed in, her bag in tow. Her cheeks were flushed and her glasses were fogged, she seemed to be out of breath. And, wait a minute…

Where were her braids?

The door behind her closed, catching her bag between and she lurched forward, soft strands of dark hair falling over her face. He watched with raised brows as she groaned and turned her head around, her long ponytail flicking over to slide down her shoulder.

So that was what was different about her. Her hair…

He gave a tiny laugh as he watched her struggle to free her bag. He leisurely walked up to her and crossed his arms. "Hey, you."

Ruby shaded eyes rose, then widened, "Hey! Time," she panted, "What's the time?"

Puzzled, he checked his phone, "Ten twenty—"

She collapsed against the door, sliding her eyes closed, "Thank God,"

The blond arched his brow as he stared at her flushed face, "What marathon did you just run?"

"Not a marathon. I ran from home, I woke up late!" she moaned, "I missed History, too!"

Cloud snorted. Who'd be sad about missing History? Tifa Lockhart, apparently…

She smacked his arm, "It's not funny!"

He only laughed harder and she hit him again, "Okay, okay, it's not." He coughed, "yeah, it is, actually."

Tifa sighed, "Why am I even bothering with you?" she began to walk away but Cloud caught her hand, vaguely noticing how cold her skin was against his.

"Aw, don't leave,"

She looked baffled, "I have a guidance appointment in ten minutes."

"Let me walk you to the office, then."

She blinked at him and raised her eyebrows, "…Why?"

"Cause the office is all the way on the other side of school. So you'll be needing some company." He shrugged, giving her a sheepish smile, "And, I've got nothing better to do,"

"Um, okay." She shrugged a shoulder.

"Great!" He smacked a hand on her back, "Let's go!"

Tifa winced but kept quiet as she followed him down the hall, making sure there was a respectful distance between them.

"So," he glanced sideways at her, a smirk lingering on his face, "Where were you last night?"

Her brows drew down and she chewed her lip, "…Nowhere special." The last thing she needed was for Cloud to know she was hired as a barmaid. She hadn't even thought about what she'd tell her dad.

"Ahan," he reached out and flicked his hand through her ponytail, "Is that why your hair's all different?"

"…Not really," Tifa lied, keeping her eyes lowered to the ground before mumbling, "but I did get a haircut."

His eyebrows shot up and he grinned, his hand going for her ponytail again, "Let me see—"

"No!" she suddenly ducked low and covered her head with her arms.

A rumble of laughter escaped him, "That bad, huh?" She nodded and he smiled, shoving his hands in his pockets before looking away. They passed the glass windows of the gymnasium as voices shouted out and the sound of shoes squeaking against the polished floor bounced through. He spotted Reno, his long fiery red hair flying as he ran around with the basketball before quickly passing it to his teammate.

He glanced back at her. She was looking down, her arms wrapped around her middle, "You don't talk a lot," he said and she looked up.

She shrugged, her lips pressing into a tiny, awkward smile, "I know,"

"Why?" he found himself asking, it was something he had wondered for a long time now. She used to be quite the talkative one back when they were kids, always friendly and comfortable around anyone. Now she was just awkward and tense.

"I don't know," she fiddled with her glasses and looked away, "I just…there's not much to talk about."

"Sure there is…you can talk about anything. There's so much you can say."

"Really… Like what?" She ran her fingers along the long row of lockers.

"Like…anything. Talk about something totally random."

"…I can't think of anything," she said sheepishly.

"Okay, I'll show you random," his lips twisted amusingly, "tell me," he waited till she turned to look at him, "If you had an extra hour in a day, how would you spend it?"

She thought for a moment before saying, "Probably sleeping,"

"Seriously? I thought you'd say studying."

She gave him a look, "I'm not even that much of a geek."

Cloud laughed, "Fair enough. Okay," he stepped in front of her, facing her as he walked backwards, "Next question. What's your favorite ice cream flavor?"

"Um, Mint Chocolate Chip."

"What'd you eat for dinner yesterday?"

"Noodles."

"Are you superstitious?"

"Um, No?"

"what's your favorite color?"

"Peach."

"Do you wet your toothbrush before or after applying toothpaste?"

"…Before, I think."

"Who lives five houses away from you on the left minus two houses plus 3 houses minus six houses?"

"Uh…….me?" Cloud grinned.

"If you could be a rock, a penny, or a milk carton, what would you be?"

"Milk carton. No! Wait—a rock—"

"Too late, you're a milk carton. Bananas or Bananas?"

"Uh, bananas?" She looked baffled.

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"

"'Cause he was stupid."

"Are you a night owl or a morning person?"

"Night owl."

"Where were you last night?"

"I was at the—" she froze, eyes wide before narrowing, "I'm not answering that."

"Damnit," Cloud grinned, "I almost got it out of you!"

The corners of her lips twitched. "You're random."

"I believe that was the whole idea," Cloud said dryly and watched as a spontaneous grin spread her lips. Her eyes crinkled and lit up, and in that moment he felt as if he was falling back in the depths of his childhood, past the unpleasant lonely nights and thunderstorms, just to see her standing there, like a single ray of light on a cloudy day, smiling and shining like she always did.

That, right there, was the real Tifa Lockhart.

"Cloud?" her voice invaded his thoughts, bringing him back to his senses. She gazed at him curiously, "I have to go now,"

"What?" He blinked, quickly realizing they were now standing next to the guidance office. "Oh," a hand flew to his neck, absently rubbing it as he checked the time. "Yeah, okay. See you around." He turned to leave.

"…Wait," She seemed hesitant, her brows pinched together as she tilted her head to the side, "Thanks…" she said slowly, as if she wasn't sure what she was saying, "…for walking me?"

The corner of his lips lifted in a lopsided smile as he shoved his hands in pockets, "Yeah, anytime."

She watched his back disappear down the hall as she felt a tiny smile pleading to break free. Maybe he wasn't such a jerk after all, she thought as she pushed through the office door.

---

It took her exactly three and a half vigorous yanks before the broken door of her father's rusty blue car gave way. It was raining again and people were scurrying around across the parking lot, some huddling under umbrellas while others used their books and arms to shield away from the freezing water.

"Hey, Dad," Tifa slid in the car, the shrill echo of the pouring rain pounding against his windshield. Her fingers swiped against the fog on her glasses to see her dad smile, a small, barely noticeable dimple forming beneath the graying hairs of his slight stubble.

"How was school?" he asked as he drove away.

Tifa shrugged indifferently, "The usual." The muffled sound of blasting music reached her ears and she turned around. "Hey." She greeted her little brother, even if she really felt like ripping his earphones out and scolding him about his ridiculous gangster get up.

Denzel lay sprawled against his seat. He acknowledged her with a single jerk of his head, "Sup, yo." Tifa stared at him for a moment before turning back towards the front. She eyed her dad and he just smiled amusingly.

"So," Mr. Lockhart glanced at her, "are you going to tell me about work or what?"

Tifa looked out the window. After countless rethinking during school, she had come to a decision. It wasn't a very good decision, mind you, but she felt it had to be done.

"Oh, yeah," she began slowly, "I got hired…at that grocery store on Winston Street. Y'know, Sam's Grocer's?" She felt horrible for lying, she really did, but for some reason, she didn't want anyone to know. At least not yet. She'll tell her dad when she's ready.

"Ah, I know," he nodded as he kept his eyes on the road, "Yeah, that's…that's good to hear. When will you be starting?"

"Uhh…tonight. They said I need a bit of training, soo…they asked me to come in by seven thirty."

"Say word, who hired Tifa?!" snickered Denzel. "Did you forget to tell them you have some serious, hardcore issues like temper and lack of social and communication skills?"

"Denzel," Mr. Lockhart eyed him in the rearview mirror, his voice stern. "It's your sister's first job, be nice. And I think this job will help her improve her skills. Besides, everyone's got issues, there's nothing wrong with it."

"Yeah," agreed Tifa, "Denzel should get a job at the library, maybe then he'll learn to keep his mouth shut."

Mr. Lockhart chuckled but Denzel scoffed, "Whatever."

For the rest of the ride home, Tifa leaned her head against the window.

Seven thirty. She had until seven thirty to finish up all her homework and household chores, but that wasn't why she felt nervous. Every time she'd think of the bar, the uneasiness and anxiety would pick up again, quickly fluttering about her stomach like a storm of angry butterflies.

She took a deep breath.

Surely, a barmaid's job wasn't that difficult?

---

"Oh, good! You're on time. Come on, come on. I gotta show you some stuff." The moment Tifa stepped in through the back door Rosalie grabbed her arm and pulled her into the small dressing room. She made a fuss about her hair, scolding her that she didn't cut it so stylishly just so Tifa could tie it up.

Tifa looked puzzled when Rosalie handed two big shopping bags, "What's this?"

"Your uniform, of course," replied Rosalie as she laughed, "You didn't think you'd be serving drinks in that get up, now did you?" Tifa looked down at her brown corduroy pants and paint splattered shoes. "So I went shopping earlier, and I saw this and it was just screaming your name. Take a look."

Setting the bags on the ground, Tifa pulled out a white, short sleeved button up shirt and a black pleated skirt. Her brows shot up as she stared at the skirt, it couldn't possibly reach past mid thigh. Swallowing, she glanced in the other bag to see a pair of tall, black leather boots.

"W,wow," Tifa blinked as she looked back at Rosalie. She shook her head, "You didn't have to—"

Rosalie waved her off, "Oh, save the tears. I happen to like spending on others. Now get changed," Rosalie turned to leave, pulling the door closed, "and call me when you're done."

Oh Dear God.

Tifa stared down at the clothes in her hands, fingers skimming against the soft cotton shirt. She took a deep breath before freeing her hands so she could slip out of her sweater.

What had she gotten in to?

She couldn't help but feel the regret seeping into her system, nagging and clawing at her. No, she reminded herself, no regrets. Pull yourself together, Tifa. It'll be alright.

It didn't take long to get the shirt on, though she did go through a bit of a dilemma regarding the skirt. She was right, the hem only brushed against the middle of her thighs. She tugged it down, feeling awfully exposed. She grabbed the other bag, with the boots, and felt relieved as she pulled out a pair of knee socks.

"Did you die in there?" called Rosalie a few minutes later, "How long is it taking you?"

"I'm done—!" Tifa replied as she struggled with the boots.

The door swung open and Rosalie walked in, a hands on her hip, "Well, don't you look cute!"

Tifa gave a nervous laugh as she tucked a lone strand of hair. Rosalie frowned before stretching a hand out, "Your hair," she muttered before pulling her ponytail loose as dark hair spilled down her back. "And, as much as I love dorks because they're just so cute, the glasses need to go. Which is why I also got you contacts."

Before Tifa could protest, her vision blurred as she felt hands on arms, gently turning her around towards the mirror. She blinked until the haze cleared away.

"There! I think you're ready to go, Miss Lockhart," Rosalie smiled dangerously.

All Tifa could do was stare.


A/N: Hope you liked it, please share your thoughts and review! Thanks :)