Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of FFVII or make profit from these stories.
The patrons of a bar did not often change. The regulars came in every day or close to every day. There were the weekend warriors that appeared Friday and Saturday nights. Every so often, some travelers might stop in for a quick bite to eat and a drink. They never stayed longer than a few days. All in all, the habits of the bar never changed much.
That was until a few days ago.
The change was subtle at first. It started with a girl with bright red hair and freckles spattered across her nose. Wide, brown eyes watched from a table in the corner of the bar. She only ever ordered vodka and cranberry, and nursed the drink the entire evening. The next day, a woman in a red dress with blond hair showed up with a woman wearing a short, white skirt and sparkling black top. After that, there was a flood of women coming into the bar.
The regular male patrons did not mind.
Tifa, however, was suspicious. Even more so since Cloud had outright refused to help her out in the bar without giving an explanation. He had gone straight to his bedroom, leaving a flabbergasted Tifa at the bottom of the stairs. Cloud had never refused to help her before. Was it something she said?
Wiping down the bar, Tifa watched the growing number of women. She kept to herself, but her curiosity wanted her to ask why they were all at her bar. While Tifa didn't want to discriminate her customers, she wanted to throw them all out. They were loud, boisterous, and sometimes scaring her regulars with the large number. They were not there for a club meeting or a girl's night out as far as she could tell. There was another purpose.
It wasn't until a week later that the first woman she had seen appear, the red-head, came up to the bar and leaned against it. Tifa meandered to where she was and asked the standard question of what she would like.
The red-head lowered her head and whispered something to Tifa. Not catching what she said at first, Tifa asked her to repeat. The woman licked her lips and said a bit louder, "When is Cloud Strife going to be here?"
Tifa blinked at the woman. Did Cloud know her? Or was she some distant ex-girlfriend Tifa never knew about? Tifa stood straight and as tall as she could. "Cloud is out on business. Can I take a message?"
The red-head shook her head, her hair getting in her face from the vigorous movement. "No, no. That's okay," she said. "We were just wondering when we would see him."
The red-head walked away from the bar and the other women quieted as she got closer. She relayed the message that Tifa gave her and disappointed looks and pouts erupted on their faces. A couple had gotten up and walked out.
The phone rang and Tifa made her way to the high-pitched noise. She picked up the phone while eyeing the women across the bar. She had a hard time keeping her face expressionless. "Seventh Heaven. This is Tifa."
Over the phone she heard a frantic voice. The owner of the voice was never one to be frantic. So when she heard the off tone, she turned away from the bar and cupped her hand over the mouthpiece. "Cloud? Are you okay?"
"Tifa. I need help," his voice tried to keep a flat tone.
"Okay," Tifa prompted. "What is it?"
"Are there any women there?"
What kind of question was that? Tifa glanced behind her to see the avid faces of multiple females. "Yeah. A few."
"Could you-," he hesitated. Tifa knew she wasn't going to like this. "Could you get them to leave?"
Careful not to say his name, she said, "I can't chase out paying customers."
"Couldn't you close the bar?"
Tifa shook her head, exasperated. "What is going on? I won't do anything without a reasonable explanation. I'm fairly sure you did not suddenly develop Gynophobia." Well, maybe he had with the way he was avoiding her, too.
She heard a gasp on the other end of the line. "I've got to go. Now. Do something, Teef. Please."
"Come in the back door. I'll unlock it." Then the line went dead. Hopefully he got that.
Tifa hung up the phone and walked to the back of the building. There was a storage area with a door where product was dropped off. She flipped the lock and started to head back for the front. There was a loud crash behind her and she whipped around, ready to fight. She saw Cloud before her on the floor, scrambling to close and lock the door behind him. He put his back to it as though he thought that would help keep it shut. It probably would work with as strong as he was.
Taking in his appearance, Tifa could not help but wonder what he got himself into this time. Maybe he pissed off Shinra or made some horrid bet with Reno. His clothes, which were normally fairly clean, were torn. There were rips at the collar, the sleeves, and multiple ones on the front and back. His pants were missing the belt and a couple belt loops. His hair, though never perfect, was more disheveled than usual. She looked at his face. His eyes were looking around, wide and blue. There were no bruises, but she did notice a mark on his chin. She moved closer to him slowly and swiped her finger on the blemish. She inspected the rouge color.
Cloud focused on her. "It's not my fault."
Tifa's brows furrowed in confusion. "Did you anger a prostitute? There are quite a few women out there looking for you."
"No," he breathed out, trying to catch his breath. "Nothing like that."
Her right foot began to tap on the floor and she crossed her arms over the chest. She looked down at Cloud the way she would at Marlene and Denzel when they withheld the truth from her. "Well?"
"It wasn't my fault," he said again. "A week ago, in the paper, there was an article. I didn't think anything of it. I didn't think this would happen. I don't know what to do about it. I'm being mauled by women!"
"And what is this article?"
"It said-," he took a shaky breath and all at once he said, "It said that I was the most eligible bachelor on the continent."
Tifa almost didn't catch that. Her jaw dropped slightly as she stared at Cloud. Did he just say…? She tried to stifle a laugh. Swallowing hard, she offered Cloud a hand to help him up. He grabbed it and she pulled him to a standing position.
"Please. Help me, Teef."
At a loss, Tifa just stood there with his hand in hers. She looked at it for a moment. Her head tilted to the right and a smile spread across her face. She looked up at his face. "I know how to solve this. Come on."
Tugging on his hand, Tifa pulled Cloud to the front of the bar. Once he realized what direction they were going in, Cloud tried to struggle. Under Tifa's firm grasp, he was helpless to follow. That woman was stronger than she looked. Upon entering the front of the bar, Cloud heard a familiar screech. He struggled harder.
Tifa pulled him behind the bar so the women could not reach him. She held up her hand to the women proffering themselves to Cloud, flinging suggestions and flirtations and proposals. They stopped immediately and waited with anticipating eyes.
"The article was a rumor," Tifa stated loudly for all of them to hear. "It was run on false information."
"You're lying!" a woman in the middle of the horde shouted and angry nods accompanied.
"Am I?" Tifa took Cloud's face in her hands and planted her lips soundly on his. His body stiffened at the contact, but shortly after his eyes closed and his hands came to rest at her back. Tifa's arms slipped around his neck and let the tip of her tongue slide across his lower lip. He parted his lips and let her deepen the kiss. He returned the passion as well.
There was silence at first before shouts of joy rang out in the bar. The regulars that had stayed for the entire ordeal gave praise. Clapping and the clinking of glasses accompanied the shouts.
"Finally!" one of the patrons laughed out.
The women by the bar, watching as Tifa kissed Cloud, glared and let out noises of disgust. One woman cried out in overdramatic shock. The women dispersed and left the bar. The last one slammed the door behind her.
The other patrons, seeing they might need a private moment, quietly filed out the door, leaving their payments on the tables.
Tifa broke the kiss and they both gasped for air. Cloud leaned his forehead onto hers and she laughed softly.
"Think it worked?" Cloud asked breathlessly.
"I think so."
"Good," he said soundly. "Let's do that again."