Author's Note: So, Cloud and Tifa aren't my favorite pairing, but my friend is a fan and she has been reading my fan fiction for years, both posted and non-posted. So as a thank you to her for being my first "fan" here is my first Cloud/Tifa one-shot. Thanks for your support and kicking me in the butt to finally post some stuff. You are the best Shreddie J! :D And everyone else, enjoy!
Disclaimer: I love to play with the FFVII characters, yet sadly, I do not own them. No suing please and thanks!
Tifa paid the cab and exited into the cold rain as she dashed from the car to the overhang in front of Seventh Heaven. She looked at her watch and groaned. She had just dropped the kids off at the train station where Barrett had met them so he could whisk them away for a weekend in Corel. She had been hoping to get back in time to catch Cloud before he left to make his last delivery of the week, but given the time, he must have left. She fumbled in her pocket for the keys to the bar and irritably stomped her foot as the keys got tangled in the lining of her pocket. Today was just not her day!
She entered the dark bar and knew she was alone. She was annoyed with herself for not leaving sooner or having Barrett come get the kids because it was the first time in such a long time that Cloud had actually asked her to set some time aside to share a meal together…and it was her who had let him down. He had been getting better after spoiling Sephiroth's most recent attempt at a return through his remnants, but she was afraid that one false step would send him running again. She knew it was unfair to think so little of Cloud, but if the past was any indicator…no. She refused to think that way. She was not going to see this night as a step backwards. Cloud was going to have to learn that the world is far from perfect and disappointments will always rear their ugly heads whether they want them to or not.
She climbed the stairs leading up to the apartment she shared with Cloud and the children, yawning as she made her way to the bathroom. The bedrooms were all empty and she sighed as she resigned herself to another night alone. She slowly peeled the wet clothing from her body and turned on the water in the shower. Once it was warm again, she stepped in and closed the curtain around her. Making short work of her shower, she got out and wrapped herself in a towel. As she was towel drying her hair, she heard the phone ringing. She opened the door to the bathroom and hurried into her room to pick up the phone.
"Hello?" she said breathlessly.
"Cloud? How are you?" she asked with a smile.
"I'm good," he answered. "You sound like you've just run a marathon or something."
"You caught me getting out of the shower," she said with a smile. "Listen, about tonight…"
"Don't even worry about it Tifa," he said. "I know we were planning a nice quiet evening, but stuff happens sometimes. I still want you to go out and have a nice dinner though. I didn't cancel our reservations and I even picked your dress up from the drycleaners for you, so just go and enjoy yourself."
"Don't argue with me Tifa," he said, a smile coming through in his voice. "You still deserve a nice night out. We'll just have to have a rain check, that's all."
Tifa smiled and nodded. "Okay, fair enough. Thanks for thinking of me, Cloud."
"I'm just paying you back, Tifa," he said quietly. "I'll see you when I get home."
"Be safe," she said before hanging up the phone.
She smiled slightly. It wasn't exactly the night she had planned, but it was something. So she shrugged and decided to get ready for her non-date.
The rain had stopped by the time she got to the restaurant. She paid the cab and walked into the one fancy restaurant still operating in Midgar. She smiled at the man greeting guests at the door.
"Good evening, miss," he said with a friendly smile. "May I help you?"
"I have a reservation," she said smiling sadly. "It's under Strife."
"Ah yes," he said as he picked up a menu. "Come with me."
Tifa followed the man through the restaurant and was surprised when she was led into a small, secluded area. Cloud, you went all out for this one, she thought to herself. Damn. The man set her menu down and pulled out her chair for her.
"Have a seat and your waiter will be with you shortly," he said as she sat down.
"Thank you," she said with a smile as she opened the menu. She sighed and looked at all the different appetizers and entrees. She was looking over the wine list when she felt a presence beside her.
"Is this seat taken?"
Her eyes widened when she looked up and found Cloud standing beside her. "Cloud?"
He smiled and sat down across from her. "Surprise."
"I thought you were gone for the weekend," she said.
"I know," he said with a smirk. "I didn't have any deliveries this weekend. I just needed to buy myself some time to make sure everything was perfect for you tonight."
"I thought this was just dinner," she said, her heart not wanting to get too excited in case the other shoe was waiting to drop.
"This is a 'thank you for everything you've done for me' dinner, so it had to be perfect Tifa because you deserve nothing less than perfect," Cloud said softly.
Tifa smiled and shook her head. "I didn't do anything more than what you deserved, Cloud. Don't be so hard on yourself."
Cloud smiled wryly. "Come on Tifa. I know what people think. I'm sure you've lost track of how many people say to you in a week that you deserve a better friend than me."
"They don't know you like I know you," she said as she reached across the table and squeezed his hand.
"I didn't even know me," Cloud confessed. "I let myself fall into an unending spiral of depression, trying to seek forgiveness and finally Aeris' words made sense. She had asked me what I wanted and I told her I wanted to be forgiven. And she asked me whom I wanted forgiveness from. I had been so wrapped up in trying to seek forgiveness from the dead that I didn't realize the only person who hadn't forgiven me was…me."
"We're always hardest on ourselves, Cloud," Tifa said.
He nodded. "I know. But…I wasted so much time. And I wasted yours. I cut you out of my world and you still stayed. I abandoned you and the kids, but you were always there for me and I always knew I had a home to come back to once I was ready. You gave up so much to make sure I always had a home and I gave you nothing in return…and you expected nothing from me. I really don't deserve you as a friend, Tifa…or as anything more."
Tifa stiffened slightly. "Are you trying to tell me something here?"
Cloud looked up and saw her defenses slowly rising behind her eyes and shook his head. "Gods, no! I'm making a mess out of everything. What I'm trying to say is I have spent so much time trying to push you out of my world, but now I want you in my world Tifa. In fact, you are my world and I want to start again. I want to give you everything you've given me. I want to be the man you knew before and I want to give you everything you want. I…love you Tifa, with all my heart and I want to start earning all the love you've ever given me."
Tifa could feel the tears building and threatening to fall. "Oh, Cloud! Do you mean it? Are we really going to be a family?"
"If you'll have me, I want to build a life with you," Cloud said with a shy smile. "I want to grow old with you, Tifa Lockheart."
She got to her feet and threw her arms around his neck. "I have waited a very long time to hear that! Welcome back to the real world, Cloud Strife."
He smiled and closed his eyes tightly as he held her close to him. "It's good to finally be back."