Hmm... Well, this was inspired by everyone doing word of the day prompts so I decided to do one too.
As unfortunate as it is I don't own Final Fantasy or even the idea of the word of the day...
Wastrel - A person who wastes, especially one who squanders money; a spendthrift. OR An idler; a loafer; a good-for-nothing.
Tifa was upset, to say the least. The bills had just come in the mail and as she started calculating in her head she knew she wouldn't have enough to cover for this month's bills. She didn't even know how she was going to do it. She couldn't very well take out a loan, especially with all of the wastrels who borrowed money from the bank but never paid them back. Tifa was at a complete loss as to what to do. She bit her lip, knowing that something was going to have to be cut from the monthly budget.
She couldn't cut water, electricity or heat. They needed them. She scanned through her bills. Every single one of them was necessary. Despair started to form in her heart. Cloud had been taking on more deliveries to avoid this! She kept the bar open later so they could get more profit. She had worked her fingers bloody until she thought she had enough. As she shuffled through the bills she missed a single envelope that fell from her hands. She sank into one of the seats at the bar.
Ever since the cure for Geostigma had been found Cloud had been around the bar more. She was terrified that he would consider leaving once he saw the bills for himself. There was simply no way she could take care of Marlene and Denzel by herself, not with the bills becoming as high as they were. She loathed having to give one of the children up. She loved them too much to even consider it. She swallowed hard and firmly shook her head to clear herself of all despairing thoughts. She had to hope that Cloud would stay despite the financial troubles they were having.
It hurt her to watch Cloud beat himself up after so long. He might start blaming their troubles on himself because the bills had been fine until he came back into their lives. This could be just another thing that he could blame on himself and then he would be back to pushing himself away to 'protect everyone' or whatever it was he thought he was doing by secluding himself to Aerith's church. The night Geostigma was cured Marlene had woken near tears because she thought Cloud had left again. She refused to get back to bed unless she saw Cloud.
When the blond warrior an eased smile crossed her lips and she fell asleep holding Cloud's hand. It was a wonder the Cloud managed to escape her firm grasp without managing to wake her up. Whenever Tifa asked he just smiled slightly and shook his head so she let it go. The look on Marlene and Denzel's faces when they saw Cloud sitting at the table the next morning for breakfast was enough for her anyways. Cloud almost spilled his coffee when the two of them hugged him.
It was obvious to see that Cloud was blaming himself all the time for things that weren't even his fault. She could easily admit that she wanted to help him but because of his masculine pride he would never dare to ask for help. If he were dying and she held the cure he would never ask for help. Men she knew would rather die than ask for assistance. To them it was like admitting a weakness. Tarra shook her head. Needing help wasn't a weakness. It was strength that allowed a person to admit that they weren't strong enough to do something on their own.
She disliked depending on others too much but she also hated people who tried to do everything on their own. They had to realize that they weren't superman or some other super hero and they couldn't do everything they put their mind to. The world wasn't going to give them anything easy to work with. She had often joked that if everything had been easy then they wouldn't have been worth doing at all but even some of the simplest of things had merit.
"Tifa, I'm home!"
Her heart could have soared when she heard him say that. 'But for how much longer?' a snide voice in the back of her mind asked darkly. She swallowed, knowing Cloud was waiting for her to respond to his greeting. She tried to pull herself together before he saw her in the wrecked form that she was in. He depended on her. She was always the beam of support in their life so if she fell then so did everything they had worked so hard to create. Their small family, the bar, the delivery business, their friends, it would all come crashing down around their heads and all that would be left was ruins of what they once had, a scary thought.
The road weary and slightly dust Cloud with cheeks that were smeared with spots of oil still managed to look like a mortal Adonis in her eyes. Tired as he was, the sight of her, waiting for him just as she always did, prompted a small smile to form, both on his lips and in his eyes. Her heart clenched. He wouldn't be smiling when he saw the bills. In fact, he would probably be livid. She was supposed to be able to manage things like bills and housekeeping but it seemed she couldn't even manage something as simple as that.
"Hey," he said softly.
Her response wasn't as enthusiastic as his and he knew something was bothering her, the instant she didn't return his smile. Then it gripped her like an iron clamp, suffocating and heart wrenching, the unimaginable guilt, pitiless and unrelenting. It permeated every fiber of her being making her ache so terribly she wished she could die. Especially, as it flooded her mind with fearful thoughts. It struck her soul with darkness and clutched tightly to her heart with its firm icy grip. She swallowed hard once more. Her mouth had gone dry and she didn't know if she could even speak to Cloud.
"What's wrong?" Cloud asked.
Tifa just shook her head. She knew it was silly to get upset like this. She was blowing it out of proportions. Cloud wouldn't leave just because financial problems. 'Or would he? You know that since it happened this once it's bound to happen again.' The dark little voice said. She looked down. It was times like this when she actually considered screaming. It was frustrating to know she messed up this badly. But she walked out of her room that morning, saw the bills sitting on the counter, unsealed, as always and then saw the numbers. Her heart had clenched and she had been distracted all day.
She had to get her head into the game. She had to open the bar in a few hours. She had to do something to fix the numbers. She would even go without for a while. She had done it before. No one noticed, especially during the times that they fought Sephiroth. She skipped meals, stuck with her old weapons so the others could get new ones and even took the weakest Materia so the others would be better defended than she was. No one even commented on it but she was sure that Aerith, when she was still alive, and Vincent had known.
"Tifa?" Cloud asked when she didn't answer him.
"I… The bills…"
Weakly she held out the crinkled papers. She nearly had a heart attack when she saw them. It was hard to pretend that everything was okay in front of Marlene and Denzel. She wanted to scream out of anger after she dropped them off at school. But she had to get back to the bar so that she could open it. When Reno walked in her heart soared but she was sorely disappointed when he said he was just there to make sure that she and Cloud were coming to Reeve's Neo ShinRa formal party the next day, which she told him yes and offered him a drink. He turned her down. Cloud took the papers from her, drawing her out of her thoughts and then he shook his head. The smile was back once again.
"Yeah, I saw them this morning," he told her.
She could hear the amusement dancing in his voice. She didn't know how he could be so amused because of their financial problems. She looked up at him to see that he was giving her a half smile. Though, the half smile was as close as he ever got to a full smile it was enough to make Tifa's heart light and fluttery. She didn't need him distracting her when she had the bills to distract her. She swallowed hard. His Mako eyes hadn't looked so tender in such a long time that Tifa had to stifle a gasp.
"You… saw them this morning?" She asked slowly, cautiously.
"I did. I went down to the Neo ShinRa this morning before my deliveries," Cloud explained, "They accidentally mixed up the bills between us and the bar down the street. We were lucky to have caught it."
Tifa couldn't help but let out a sigh of relief. It was a misunderstanding after all. She had been fretting for nothing, it appeared. She was slightly embarrassed but the relief overwashed anything she might have felt. Embarrassment would set in later, of that she was sure of. Cloud would be there for her so she could hide her face in his shirt as she cursed herself and he whispered sweet nothings in her ears. Sure, she felt terrible for the bar down the street but honestly, who needs to pay over 70 gil for a single Chocobo race. Her bar rarely had the races shown on TV and if they did show it she always made people pay a little so that they could purchase the event.
"I just got paid by one of my really big customers too," Cloud said, "So we're going out…"
Tifa smiled. Cloud was happy to be apart of the family. Granted, he and Tifa had been tentatively dating but Marlene and Denzel were more than happy with it. In fact, Marlene started calling Tifa her mom and Cloud her dad, while still referring to Barret as her father. Denzel was also doing the same. Cloud remembered one night when he was going to go get Denzel from a friend's house the other boy had completely freaked out when he saw Cloud and Denzel had simply said, 'He's my dad' when his friend asked any questions. Cloud couldn't describe in words how that made him feel.
But it also meant that Denzel was moving on. He wasn't going to follow Cloud's example and live solely in the past. Sure, the boy missed his true parents but he loved Cloud and Tifa enough to consider them his new parents, especially, when one of his drunken uncles who didn't even know he existed until a few months before he tried to take Denzel tried to sue them for keeping him from him. They fought for Denzel because Denzel begged them to keep him. They couldn't say no. They loved him just as much as he loved them.
The uncle had only wanted Denzel for the sake of getting money from the Neo ShinRa because of a new policy that Reeve had passed for having a kid, as he later stated after he lost the case and Yuffie threatened him with mutilation if he didn't spill why he wanted 'the squirt'as she so eloquently put it. The wastrel that was Denzel's uncle explained. Yuffie, Barret and Cid had to be held back to keep them from pummeling the man into the floor. Cloud just gave him a Mako enhanced glare and the man was sent scurrying. No one else made a move to claim Denzel after that.
"That's really nice Cloud. The kids-"
"Are staying with Vincent and Yuffie…" Cloud interjected, "When I said we're going out, I mean you and I are…"
Tifa looked at him in surprise. She didn't realize she was blinking owlishly until her eyes fluttered one too many times. This was new. If she looked like a gaping fish she blamed Cloud. The blond normally didn't go and plan a dinner for just the two of them. Everything they did was with Marlene and Denzel. A dinner for just the two of them would be a sort of reward, especially after the disheartening day that she had. Cloud took her hand away from the remaining bills that she still had in her hand. He began to play with her fingers with that tender half smile on his face.
"But the bar…" She protested weakly.
"Cid and Shera are coming over to watch it for us," Cloud said simply.
He had thought of all of the small details that she normally fussed about. He had taken care of everything so she didn't have anything to worry about. He hadn't been romantic about anything. Nevertheless that was the sort of charm that Cloud held. He was still slightly socially inept, but like Vincent he was a quick learner. Tifa loved Cloud because he was Cloud. No other man seemed to make her as happy as Cloud did. When she and Cloud found out that Rude had a crush on her, as they were traveling to stop Sephiroth, and they had fought Cloud seemed to aim all of his anger at Rude over Reno. Rude never laid a finger on her, and aimed for Cloud and Nanaki instead.
"Thank you, Cloud…" She said softly.
Cloud nodded. He got up from the bar stool he had pulled over. Tifa grabbed his hand, making him freeze in place. Slowly he turned to look at her. She got to her feet. She took one step towards him and kissed him on the cheek, so not to overwhelm him with sudden affections. Cloud just gave a small half smile. Almost shyly, though he would never admit it, he placed a chaste kiss on her lips. Sometimes he acted as if he were afraid she'd just vanish, even if he spent almost all of his time with her. Once or twice she had caught him watching her as she slept. When questioned about it he just said he thought he lost her, but it was just a dream.
"You should go get ready."
She smiled because she knew that Cloud would always be there, just like he promised all of those years ago. He protected her, even if it was just from finances. Some how Tifa was okay with always having him rescuing her when she needed it. He promised to take care of her and he was fulfilling that promise to the fullest. She was sorely tempted to kiss him again but if she did they would take forever to get to the surprise restaurant. All of Cloud's careful planning would be down the drain and all for naught. She didn't want that so she went upstairs to get ready as Cloud had suggested.