Tifa looked down to see Marlene looking up at her, her face troubled. "Hi sweetie. What's going on?" she asked, giving the little girl a small smile even as dozens of thoughts raced in her head. Trouble with school? With boys? I have trouble with that myself! Please don't tell me I have to give her the talk this soon!
"Well, I was wondering…"
"If Papa's my dad…"
I knew it! I knew it! It's the talk!
"And you're my new mommy, where does Cloud fit in?"
I'm not ready to give her the talk yet! I don't even know wha- "What?"
Marlene gave Tifa that look that kids seem to always have when they think adults are acting weird. "Well, you know… Papa's my daddy, well, he's not really my real daddy since my daddy's really with the lifestream now. So now Papa's my daddy, and you're my mommy," and Marlene looked at Tifa with wide puppy dog eyes then, and it was all the older woman could do to nod to allow the little girl to grin widely. ""I know you and Papa aren't really together," Marlene hastened to add, mistaking the cause of Tifa's reddening cheeks, "That would be too weird. And Denzie's my brother, so I was wondering where Cloud is in the family," Marlene said in a rush, scuffing the toe of her shoe at the end of it.
If possible, Tifa's reddening cheeks brightened even more. "Er, well… Heh. Why the interest, all of a sudden?" Tifa asked instead, even as she thought furiously what to answer the little girl. There was no way she would disappoint her, but how was she going to answer a sticky question like that?
"I was just wondering, because our homework's to make a family tree, and I don't know how to do it, so I thought of asking you," Marlene said innocently.
"Well, um, you see…"
"I mean, he's too big to be my brother, which would make him your son, which would be too weird. Aren't you two together?"
"Er, yeah, about that…"
"So where do I put Cloud in the tree?"
"What's this about putting me on a tree?"
"Cloud!" Marlene squealed, and she ran to the door where the blond man stood, having just arrived. "I have this family tree homework for school, and I was just asking Tifa where to put you in. I mean, she's my mommy, and Denzie's my big brother, and Papa's my daddy. And, well," and Marlene shrugged, "I don't really know where to put you," she finished, looking down embarrassedly.
Tifa could sympathize. She knew why the little girl got embarrassed. She still vividly recalled her outburst about their status as a family. It was still too fresh, too fragile a thing, and she wasn't sure just how strong it was, even now, even after geostigma. She waited with bated breath to hear what Cloud's reaction was.
"Would it be too confusing if I'm also your daddy?"
Tifa's head shot up to stare in surprise at Cloud, who had the decency to scratch the back of his head like he always did when he was embarrassed. She then looked at Marlene, who was grinning widely. "I would really like that! Except," and her forehead scrunched with the effort of thinking, "I don't really know how to make that."
"I can help you," Tifa hurriedly said. "Let's see, we just get a piece of paper and…"
"I don't really know how it looks since I'm not good in drawing and stuff," Cloud admitted, interrupting Tifa's rambling. "But I don't suppose you could draw a line connecting me and Tifa, could you, Marlene?" Even though he addressed the little girl, the blond man only had eyes for the bartender.
Tifa's mouth formed a little "o", and she barely heard Marlene's whoop of joy. All she could see was Cloud, who was also as red as hers, but smiling gently as he walked up to her. Holding her hands, his mako blue eyes locked with her ruby orbs. "I guess if that wasn't clear, I'm asking you, Tifa Lockhart, if you would marry me."
Tifa's eyes glistened with tears. "Yes," she choked out, and gave a watery laugh when Cloud chuckled delightedly and put his arms around her, hugging her tightly before kissing her full on the lips.
Marlene looked happily at her guardians. She might have one confusing family tree to submit tomorrow, but it was worth it. And three dads! Her friends would be jealous.