Where they stood
Tifa finally stopped talking, stopped explaining how she had destroyed their happy home. The silence that fell between them made her miss the sound of his voice, even if it was filled with anger and disgust. She was about to crack under the pressure and beg him to say something but he beat her to it.
He held his mask on tighter than usual, closing his eyes so she couldn't read him.
"Reno?!" She didn't know what he wanted her to say. All she could do was sit and stare, unable to move.
"RENO!" His shout startled her as he stood above her, accusing her of what he already knew. Rage filled his voice when he said in the man's name. She knew how much he loathed Reno.
The way he towered over her made her feel small and weak, things she never liked feeling. "Yes, Reno,Cloud!" She jumped up to face him, finally getting mad at his superior stance and facing him eye to eye. "What else do you want me to say?"
"Because you don't love me the way you love her!" Tifa gasped and covered her mouth, not believing what she had just said. She immediately dropped her hands to her side, furious with herself, Reno, Cloud, and even Aerith at this point. She was pathetic after all, including the long dead Cetra in this twisted confusion.
"Don't bring her into this. This is between you and me and the fact that you fucked another guy!" His words hurt as if she had been hit with a physical blow. It was true; she'd had sex with Reno. But that was all it was. Whatever she had felt for him had been replaced with disgust for him and now she'd do anything to take it all back.
"I know, Cloud! And it's tearing me up inside."
Instead of keeping the rage she desperately wanted to hold onto, she felt herself sinking to her knees, too weak to hold herself and look him in the eye at the same time as tears fell around her. Looking up, she realized they weren't only hers as he sank down in front of her a few moments later.
"I'm so sorry." Tifa choked on the words as her sobs took over, unable to speak.
She could see him struggle with his pain at her betrayal and his need to comfort her, his body shifting uneasily until he took her into his arms. All she could do was melt into him, undeserving of the man who held her close and stroked her hair as she cried out all of the hate, fear, pain, guilt; she felt guilt more than anything as it consumed her and made her pull away, looking into his face. Cloud saw it there plainly on her face and his cerulean eyes shined with understanding and their own sheen of tears. He had been filled with guilt for so many years, it was hard to believe that he was free of it and Tifa was not.
"Loved," he whispered, taking hold of her hands in his. "I loved Aerith, Teef. Past tense."
A watery smile graced her lips before asking something she had to know. "Am I past tense, too?"
It took him so long to answer that she felt her heart breaking with each second that ticked by, watching it fall to the floor in a million pieces. She had no right to ask him to take her back but that's what she was doing. Tifa couldn't imagine her life without Cloud. There was no hope left when he at last gave her a sad smile, speaking softly.
"I love you, Tifa." She allowed herself to look at him again, trying unsuccessfully to smother the hope that sprung like a fountain within her.
"Love. Present tense."
Shock had her wide eyed and Cloud leaned closer, lifting her chin up and gracing her lips with the sweetest, softest, most tender kiss she had ever felt. There was nothing else to compare it to and she couldn't believe she had almost lost all of this because of one stupid continuous mistake. She could have never had anything like this with Reno. He didn't hold her heart as Cloud did now and forever, gently putting it back together.
"We'll make it better, Teef."
He held her face tenderly in his hands and all she could do was listen, helpless under his loving gaze.
"It's not all your fault…I wasn't there for you as much as I should have been."
She couldn't believe he was trying to take the blame. "That gave me no right-"
"No, it didn't. But I promise I'll try harder, Teef. I want to be the only man there for you."
That had her stunned into silence. Not only was he willing to take her back but he was taking part of the blame and going to make it better than it had been. Before she knew it, she was a blubbering mess again.
"I love you so much Cloud, I can't lose you. I was so stupid and…and…"
Instead of chastising her for being so idiotic, he simply took her back into his embrace, soothing her weary soul. "Shhhh, it'll be ok, Teef."
It will all be okay.
As it was meant to be.
A/N: As always, please R&R. It is greatly appreciated.