(A/N) I don't read much on Fanfiction anymore except from the few authors that I follow now, but I've browsed through enough stories to know that the whole 'Tifa has a nightmare' thing has been done before, and I wouldn't doubt that it's been written quite often. That said, the idea for this story came to me without me reading anybody else's story (I couldn't live with myself if I ever copied anyone), so I decided to go ahead and write it, despite the fact that this concept has been used before. I hope that I was able to put an original spin on the idea, because even though the gist of the plot as been written before, I would like to think that mine has a different message to it; one that goes beyond just romance. ;)

Anyhow, like so many of my other stories, this is written in Cloud's point of view, and it takes place a short time after Advent Children and/or Advent Children Complete.

There for You

My eyelids snap open as I wake suddenly, feeling strangely dazed and disoriented in the dark room. I lay completely still for a moment, staring up at the ceiling as I instinctively listen for any noises, either in the house or outside, that might be out of the ordinary. Everything seems to be silent, so I'm at a loss for what could have woken me up. Sighing, I roll over onto my side so I can see the clock that sits on the table next to my bed, and I scowl at the glowing numbers that declare it is 3:17 in the morning.

I returned to Seventh Heaven only a few weeks ago, and unlike all of those sleepless, nightmare-ridden nights that I had become accustomed to while I was away from this place, I have been sleeping soundly every night that I've been back here. Maybe the change has to do with the fact that I no longer have to live with the horrible reality of Geostigma, both in myself and in so many others, or maybe it's because the huge burden of guilt that I had been carrying around for so long was suddenly lifted off my shoulders. Whatever the case, I haven't woken in the middle of the night like this since I came back home, so it concerns me that it's happened tonight.

Deciding that I should probably check on the kids to make sure they aren't the cause for my sudden awakening, I sit up slowly and then slide out of bed; making sure to put on some sweat pants before I leave my room. After pulling the door open I step out into the hallway, listening again for any sound that might indicate that something is amiss in the house. Everything appears to be fine, but I move down the hallway towards Denzel and Marlene's room anyway.

When I reach the door to the kids' room I turn the doorknob cautiously; trying to open the door as soundlessly as I can so I won't wake them. Once it's open I peer inside, and I'm pleased to find that both of them seem to be sleeping peacefully. Marlene is curled up on her side, looking as though she is cold now that her covers have fallen away from her, but Denzel seems more content; one arm dangling off the side of his mattress and a few toes poking out from beneath the blankets at the end of the bed.

I creep into the room quietly, moving to the area in between their beds. I first grab the edge of Marlene's covers so I can pull them back up around her shoulders, which seems to cause her to relax a little. Then I move over to Denzel, reaching down to brush his messy hair away from his face. I stare down at him for a moment, and I suddenly realize how much easier it is for me to look at him now that his forehead is free of the black marks of the stigma, because I no longer have to fear that his next day may be his last.

Once I'm satisfied that both of the kids are okay, I turn to make my way back across the room and out the door; making sure to shut it carefully behind me. I decide that even though I still don't know what woke me up, all seems to be well in the house, so I might as well just go back to bed. On my way back down the hall, however, I find myself hesitating outside of the door to Tifa's room. There aren't any abnormal sounds coming from beyond the door, but I suddenly have an unexplainable urge that compels me to go in and check on her.

Despite this strange feeling that tells me I need to make sure she is okay, I still waver outside her door for a minute as I try to figure out what I should do. Tifa is usually a pretty light sleeper, much the same as I am, so I know the moment I open her door, no matter how quietly I am able to do it, she will more than likely wake up. As the odd feeling of intuitive worry begins to grow in the pit of my stomach though, I decide to take the chance of disrupting her sleep and go ahead and push her door open.

To my surprise, Tifa doesn't even stir as I enter her room, let alone awaken from the sound of me opening her door. My eyes are already well adjusted to the low level of light in the house, so when I look across the room to where Tifa is lying in her bed, I am able to see her well enough to tell immediately that she's not sleeping nearly as soundly as either of the kids are. She's lying on her side and is curled up in a tight, uncomfortable looking ball. Unlike Marlene though, Tifa's covers are still around her, so I know she can't possibly be cold. I unconsciously move closer to her, eventually ending up standing by the side of her bed, and as I gaze down at her it is even more obvious to me that she isn't sleeping well. Her hands are balled up into fists, gripping handfuls of her sheets, and her eyebrows are pinched together in a frown. It doesn't take me long to put together all of the signs and come to the obvious conclusion: she's having a nightmare.

Tifa always seems to know when there is something going on with either of the kids, because she never fails to awaken right on cue when one of them is sick or having a bad dream, even if they don't come to get her or make any noise to wake her up. It's like she has an extra sense; something that I have never understood or been able to do. I'm not sure if it's possible that I was somehow able to sense Tifa's distress tonight and that's what caused me to wake up, but I quickly decide that since I'm here, I shouldn't leave her in the midst of an awful dream.

I reach my hand down towards her tentatively, barely touching her shoulder in hopes that I will be able to rouse her without startling her too much. It doesn't seem to matter how lightly I touch her though, because the instant my fingers graze her skin Tifa's eyes fly open and she bolts up in bed, letting out a horrified yelp and then gasping wildly for breath. She doesn't even seem to notice that I'm here at first; maybe because she's still seeing whatever was in her dream. I reach down impulsively and put both of my hands on her shoulders to try and bring her back into reality, but she jerks away from my touch.

"Tifa," I say quietly, trying to get her to fully wake up. "Tifa, it's me."

The sound of my voice seems to bring her out of her dream a bit more, but her breathing is still coming in short, strangled gasps. I watch as she puts her hands over her eyes, seeming to be trying to push whatever images were haunting her out of her mind. Her whole body is shuddering, although I am unable to tell whether it's from being afraid or because she's broken out in a cold sweat; something that always seems to happen to me whenever I have a nightmare.

I don't say anything else to her, but instead I wait patiently for her to calm herself down. Tifa gets her breathing back under control fairly quickly, at least enough so that she isn't gasping anymore, despite the fact that it still sounds ragged when she inhales. She doesn't uncover her eyes until a few moments later though, and even then she continues to shiver slightly in the silence of the dark room.

Tifa doesn't say anything to me, and I stand still in front of her; suddenly feeling awkward for waking her up like this and not knowing what else to do. Trying to console others is not a skill that I've ever been good at, simply because it's not something that I'm used to doing. Living with Tifa and the kids for the past few years has helped me to become more at ease with things like that, but it's still a struggle for me to figure out how to reach out and comfort someone. Now though, as I'm standing here watching Tifa like this, I decide that I need to forget about my insecurities for the moment, because she really needs someone to be here for her.

As I try to let what little instinct I have about this sort of thing take over, I find myself sitting down beside her on the edge of her bed, and then reaching over to place my hand on her shoulder. She peers up at me with an unsure, almost confused expression in her eyes, and I try to give her a look that will let her know that I'm trying to help. She glances away from me for a moment as she wavers, and I feel awful when I realize that she probably thinks that she always has to be careful to give me my space, so she won't push me away. I know I must have acted that way before, because my fear and guilt caused me to hold her at an arm's length for a long time, but I'm hoping that she'll be able see that it's different now that I can live without those things holding me back, and I want to be here for her in all those ways that I wasn't before.

Her eyes return to me after a few more seconds, and then she seems to decide to take my silent invitation. She reaches for me slowly and hesitantly; her arms going around my neck as she leans in towards me. She ends up sitting beside me rather than crawling all the way into my lap, but her chest is still pressed against mine, and her face is resting against my collarbone. Despite my best efforts to prepare myself my body still freezes in reaction to having her so unusually close, but after a few seconds of awkward stiffness I ease into it and put my arms around her in return.

I hate that I'm so bad at this, because Tifa is always there for me whenever I need her, but I still can't figure out how to be there for her. She seems to appreciate my effort though, because after just a few moments of sitting together the tension in her body slowly eases, and her breathing finally returns to normal. It seems strange to me that I should be able to comfort anyone, but Tifa seems not only to have recovered from her nightmare, but also to be perfectly at ease while she's in my arms. I quickly realize that I'm content to be with her like this too, and I let my eyes slide closed for a moment as I begin to wonder if maybe this, being with her like this without all those walls between us, is something that I've needed for a long time.

I remain holding her, but when I hear quiet footsteps approaching behind me I look over my shoulder towards the door to Tifa's room. I must have forgotten to close it all the way when I came in here, because it's cracked open slightly, and I can see Denzel peering in from out in the hallway. He has a worried look on his face, and I catch a glimpse of Marlene where she's standing behind him; the noise Tifa made when I woke her from her nightmare must have startled both of the kids awake.

"It's alright," I tell them, keeping my voice hushed. "Tifa just had a bad dream."

Denzel gives me a silent nod and Marlene, who is now ducking beneath Denzel's arm so she can see into the room too, gives me a small smile. They both turn back to head down the hall then, and I hear the door to their room shut a few seconds later. I'm sure they can both understand this situation, because Tifa isn't the only one in the house that has trouble with nightmares interrupting her sleep. We all have things in our pasts that come back to haunt us from time to time, and we've all had our share of horrific dreams, myself included.

I turn back to Tifa then, even though the only thing I'm able to see while she's this close to me is the top of her head, and she holds on to me for a few moments longer before she finally loosens her hold on my neck. I remove my arms from around her, and as she pulls back from me she looks almost embarrassed, although I'm not sure if it's because she woke up the whole house with her nightmare or because of the position that we were just in. She glances away from me momentarily, and I decide that I probably need to go so she can get back to sleep, so I slide off of her bed.

"Are you sure you're okay?" I ask her in a whisper.

"I'm fine," she assures me, looking up at me with a smile on her lips.

Tifa has always tried to downplay her emotions for the sake of other people, and even though she smiles at me, I can still tell that there is a hint of fear lingering in her eyes. I choose not to call her on it now though, because I know if she really needed me to stay with her, then she would say something. I give her an understanding nod before turning away from her, and then I move over to her door and pull it open wide enough so I can get through. Just as I'm about to step out of her room though, Tifa's voice calls my attention back.

"Cloud?" she asks tentatively.

I turn back to her, and she stares down at her hands for a long moment before finally looking back up at me.

"Thank you," she says softly, and the smile on her face this time is every bit genuine.

The corner of my own mouth pulls up into a half-smile in response. "Goodnight, Tifa," I tell her quietly, before turning back to step past the doorframe and into the hallway.

I hear her bid me goodnight in return just before I close the door behind me, and as it clicks shut something slowly begins to become clear within my mind. Maybe, all this time that I've thought I wasn't good enough at taking care of Tifa and the kids, what they really wanted was just for me to be here. This realization ignites a warm feeling deep within my chest, and as I trudge tiredly back to my room, I find myself feeling more secure with my place in our family than I ever have before. I might not be great at taking care of them, but they all need me, and I know now more than ever that I want to be there for them.

The End

(A/N) One of my reviewers, Soniax, kindly pointed out to me that in the last oneshot I posted, Legally Tifa, the introduction was a bit too long and it caused the beginning of the story to drag, so I've tried to correct that in this story. Hopefully I did okay. ^_^'

Anyway, I love getting feedback, so don't be shy to leave me a review. ;)

-punkiemonkie