The woman behind the counter sighed and stretched as the last customer finally left the bar, trying to remove the kinks that formed on her shoulders and arms after a whole night of bartending. It was only when she was flexing her right arm over her head that she noticed a shock of blond hair on one corner. She was surprised, to say the least. He would usually be upstairs by this time, trying to get a good night's rest because he heads out early for his deliveries. What was even more surprising was the fact that he was looking balefully at her. She was used to seeing him sulk, but never had one of his infamous glares directed at her.
"Cloud? Is there something wrong?" she asked the brooding man.
"You know I'm not a mind reader, Cloud. I can't help you if you don't talk to me." Actually, she could interpret his silences down pat, but she wasn't about to tell him that.
She was starting to get irritated now. "Cloud, if I've done something, can you just spit it out? I've had a long day and I don't think I can deal with your brooding right now." The look on his face would have been laughable if she was in the mood to laugh. She wasn't. The day had been especially hard for her, especially because she was forced to throw out no less than five men for attempting to grope her, and got in the middle of a fight before an all-out brawl occurred. Her customers usually acted better than this, but there were a bunch of newcomers who came to Edge during the day, and they just had to pick Seventh Heaven to create a ruckus.
"… I'm not brooding."
"Really? Could've fooled me." She snorted, and then immediately felt bad. It wasn't like it was Cloud's fault that she had an awful day. "Look, Cloud, I'm sorry for being short with you, but obviously, something is bothering you. If you don't want to talk about it, fine, but if I've done something that annoyed you, then tell me."
"I'm not annoyed at you."
"Cloud?" She prompted. He was not much of a talker, never had been, but there were times when she had to restrain herself from kicking him for his curt answers.
"But… Did that man who left have to hog your attention?"
A confused look crossed her face, and then a small grin passed her lips. "Are you jealous?"
Cloud snorted, but even when he ducked his head lower, she caught a glimpse of his reddening cheeks. She crowed. "You are jealous!"
"Fine. So maybe I am," he groused. "You don't have to encourage them."
She gave a small laugh. "Cloud, I'm not encouraging them," she said, speaking slowly, as though to a little boy. "It's what bartenders do. We listen to people's problems, because chances are, there's no one else that they could talk to about them."
"Does his problem involve a beautiful brunette with a killer body who happens to be a bartender at this bar?"
This time, it was her cheeks' turn to redden in pleasure and in embarrassment. "Not hardly," she managed to make her tone dry. "Not unless his wife happened to be a bartender at this bar."
She laughed softly then, and as she sat across from him, she took one of his hands in hers. "Cloud, you do know there's no reason for you to be jealous, right?"
Her lips twitched at his continuing brooding silence. "You know, I'm surprised that you would get jealous over the customers at the bar when they barely speak more than five words to me, but you didn't really mind when we were with the guys back then, when we were going around the world."
"Oh, come on! Don't tell me you did mind?" and here she chuckled, and laughed even louder when she saw the expression on his face.
"It's not funny."
"But it is! Barret?"
"I would've killed him after finding out you were staying with him if he didn't tell me he saw you as a daughter and a sister."
"The man's a lech! Don't trust him! And don't get me started on the Turks!"
Here, she gave him a bewildered look. They had just attended said man's second baby shower the day before, and they were fine then.
"He's a bloody vampire, and you know how vampires are about seducing maidens," he growled.
She laughed again.
"Don't tell me… Nanaki?"
"I don't trust the way he always asks you to pet him."
"… Cait Sith?"
"He tried to look up your skirt when you were going up the Highwind once!"
"And how did you know he was looking up my skirt?"
"…" Red cheeks again.
"And you're calling Cid a lech!" She chuckled again, and gave his hand a squeeze. "So you're telling me you didn't trust me with the other guys? Why didn't you say anything before?"
This time, he raised his head and gave a crooked smile. "How would you have reacted if I told you I wanted to rip any male who was above 7 years old who tried to look at you?"
"… Oh." It was her turn to be speechless.
"Yes. Oh." This time, he was the one who chuckled, even as he brought her hand to his lips.
"So you're saying that the only ones you were comfortable with to spend that much time with me in those days were Aerith," and it was a testament to their recovery that neither of them flinched when she said her name, "and Yuffie?"
"Cloud, even Yuffie?"