Author's Note: Now it's Tifa's turn to be looked after. This is written under the assumption that her and Cloud are together.

Even Heroines

"Long day," Cloud muttered to himself as he dismounted Fenrir and kicked the support bar out from underneath it. The garage was cold and the window panes were icy with the impending frost of the coming morning. His shoulders shivered in a rolling action.

He was setting his swords into their steel cabinet on the adjacent wall when he caught sight of the door to the bar. It was wide open. He had told Tifa not to bother locking the garage doors but he always told her to lock the one to the bar. Something unsettled inside him.

He climbed the steps and eyed the door. It didn't looked like it had been kicked-in, forced or wrenched open. But when he looked closer with his mako-enhanced eyes he could see little splints of wood fraying around a foot mark in the woodwork, as if someone had given it a small kick as a test. Cloud's eyes narrowed into the darkness and saw that a lot of the framed pictures were missing, the cash-register was open, the storeroom door was open in the distance, and even the phone had been ripped from its socket.

Where the hell is Tifa?

One step at a time he climbed the stairs to the landing and looked around. Nothing. He instinctively checked on the children first and was happy to find them sound asleep in their beds, in their blankets and among their stuffed toys. With hopefulness he checked in Tifa's room. She wasn't there.

Maintaining his soldier-trained stealth he began to move quietly across the landing to check back downstairs, but then he heard a drip, drip, drip echoing from the depths of the bathroom and stopped. He approached the slightly ajar bathroom door and pushed.

He saw nothing in the darkness at first, just the slight white glow of the pale wallpaper and ivory enamel of the bath. Then a momentary glint of of light pierced his eye and died away again, followed by the soft sound of skin sliding over enamel, flesh gliding into water. Tifa's ring was staring at him from the lip of the bathtub about to sink in with her.


He tore away from his position in the doorway. She was ghostly white, a white statue in the freezing water, almost fully submerged. His hands dived into the water and ripped her out. Water soaked through his gloves and up his sleeves but he didn't care. He set her down swiftly on the tiled floor. She wasn't breathing. He tilted her head back, placed his lips over hers and breathed into her again, and again, and again. She remained motionless until he shook his head in a final defiance and breathed into her lungs once more. Coughing and spluttering she came back to life, still seeming unconscious as she rolled onto her side.

Cloud looked to the towels on the rack and pulled free the largest two he could. He wrapped her in them but all she could do was shiver violently and breath in small and rapid breaths. He rubbed the last of the water out of her hair and began to pick her up.

There was a shuffle behind him. All at once he became an alert beacon of anger. He slowly rose to face the bathroom wall opposite and stayed there, seeing if the intruder would dare to make a move with his back turned. Cloud then span to face them, seeing a murky blur of fabric running out of sight. Cloud sprinted to the top of the stairs and launched himself down the steps, slamming into the faceless man. Pulling violently on his collar he smashed him into the nearest wall.

As he studied the snivelling face he realised the blur was merely a boy, not even fifteen years old. He was terrified.

"I didn't mean it... I'm just looking for stuff for my family, my sister, we have nothing," he choked.

"You came here?" Cloud spat back. The brat was probably lying. His clothes were too new.

The boy swallowed, trembling where he stood, almost crying. "I heard this place made loads of money."

"And Tif-"

He quickly caught on to who Tifa was and screeched, "Or I would have got caught! She was still breathing when I looked!"

"She was drown-" and then Cloud remembered her upstairs, still barely able to breath while he was down there wasting time. He released his fierce grip and turned to head back up the stairs. But then he stopped. He turned his attention back to the boy.

"Get out."

The boy scampered away, tears rolling down his cheeks, firmly shutting the door to the garage behind him. He even shut the garage door as best as he could from the outside before running off into the night.

Cloud had already scooped Tifa's shivering form into his arms and lowered her into bed. He rummaged through draws for tops, trousers, socks, hand warmers, whatever he could find to help warm her up, dressing her as he went. He went to the airing cupboard and found more blankets to cover her with, closed the bedroom door to stop any kind of draft, ensured the bedroom window was closed tight and then finally came under the sheets himself and pulled her as close to him as he could. She was still shaking as he lowered his head into her hair. He was careful to make sure her frozen hands were being warmed in between his torso and her own.

Let this be enough.


Tifa awoke slowly with the approach of daylight flitting through the blinds. She felt horrible and feverish. Wishing she'd never woken up, she turned her head back into the pillow. There was then a timid a knock at the door, but it felt like someone was pounding her skull with a sledgehammer. She pulled herself gently from Cloud's tight embrace only to find herself gaping at her ghostly reflection in the mirror. She was was fully clothed as if she was ready to go out sledging in winter. She turned her head down to Cloud and found he was also fully clothed. Dubiously she turned back to herself. Several layers of clothes with the top few layers being Cloud's own shirts. She shook the away the puzzlement and turned her attention back to the door. "You can come in."

Marlene came in fully dressed and ready for school, her eyes bright and awake.

"Tifa, where are our lunches again?" She then looked closer at Tifa's face. "Wow, you look awful."

Tifa smoothed over her brow as she tried to push back the headache and slight nausea that had appeared from the stuffy air circling about her head. "I'll show you where they are."

"No you don't," Cloud said, grabbing her arm and pushing her back into bed. She hadn't realised he was awake.

"Cloud, what are you-"

"I'll do it. You need to rest. Don't move."

"You don't even know where they are."

"We'll manage. Just stay under the covers."

"Cloud, I'm boiling! Why am I wearing your shirts anyway?"

"Just stay there." With that he strode out the room, closing the door behind him.

She was about to call to him in annoyance before she felt the sickness rising again and ended up curling her head into her arms. It felt like someone had been rattling stones around in her skull, and violently.

Cloud reappeared merely minutes later with a hot water bottle. "Hold onto this."

"I'm really hot... I don't think I need it, Cloud."

"Do you feel hot, or do you feel both hot and cold all at once?"

She didn't answer but it was the latter. He took it as an answer and handed it to her before going back downstairs. She wondered if she was going to die from her head exploding or her blood boiling first.

When he'd seen the children out of the door he returned upstairs with a pint glass of water. "Drink this."

She took it gratefully and soon had to sink into the bed again out of pure feverishness. As he looked properly at her as she tried to fall asleep he felt better. His anxiety reduced. The color had returned to her cheeks, she was talking fine, and despite her flu-like fever she was back to normal. He slid back under the covers as she continued to doze and wrapped his arms around her, moving the hot water bottle aside. He tucked his head back into her hair, but lightly enough not to aggravate her headache.

"So why are you trying to cook me again?" she said faintly, trying to tease him.

"I was scared you were hypothermic," was his simple answer.

She wasn't sure how that would make any sense until she looked back over her memory. She'd been relaxing underneath the surface of the bathwater when she'd thought she'd heard the door open. She'd resurfaced and turned towards the door to see whether it was Marlene or Denzel, or even Cloud, when she'd seen a fast moving blur and the whoosh of a heavy object. Everything had blacked out. She must have passed out in the bath; hit her head on the side or something.

"Oh I see," she replied.

He held her silently a moment more before saying, "And, Tifa, always check the door to the bar is locked."

"But I did. I always do." She attempted to remember.

"Double check it then," he said gently.

Too feverish to say any more she quietly nodded her head so that he would feel it against his chest and then let herself fall back into a calm doze.

"I'll be here until you get better," he murmured into her ear. Don't worry about anything.

He continued to hold her as she fell back to sleep. He gently sighed as he heard her breathing deepen and calm. She was fine. She was going to be alright. As always, he had been just in time, even if just a little late.

He was her knight in shining armor.