Five years is a long time to wait to resolve your sexual tension. Especially when all five of them take place after the onset of puberty, and at least two pass after you've reached the age of consent. The sudden, surprise release of even some of that long-held restraint made it difficult to remember that loving, considerate men didn't ravish their virginal girlfriends on kitchen counters, especially not a mere ten minutes after forging said relationship.

Not that Cloud was thinking very clearly in any case. Tifa's arms were around his neck, fingers tangled in his hair; her legs were twined around his waist, clenched tight at his hips; and her mouth was hot and open beneath his, innocently eager. Inexperienced but not reluctant, she'd quickly learned how to respond to the press of his lips, the stroke of his tongue. When hers made its first, shy foray between his lips, he captured it with gentle suction, delighting in the surprised, hungry sound that escaped her.

He'd dreamed of this, fantasized about it – hell, he'd even practiced for it – for years. And although he had an excellent imagination, this was better. Much, much better. Letting his hands wander until they cupped her bottom, he pulled her in tighter, grinding his arousal into the lush cradle between her thighs. With a moan, she broke away from his kiss, her head falling back to expose her throat as she gasped for breath. It was all the invitation he needed to slide his mouth down that delicate column, tongue flickering out to sample her taste: sugar and salt and vanilla, shifting to cream when he reached her collarbone and found traces of the confection he'd playfully smeared there earlier. That flavor was less beguiling and strangely intrusive, serving as a reminder that helped clear the haze of longing from his mind.

Despite what his libido would have him believe, how persuasive it was, or how willing Tifa seemed... this was neither the time nor the place for the kind of activity his body was advocating. It was far too soon, too rushed. Much as he wanted her – and Shiva he did, always had – the physical desire was just a small part of that. A small part with a very big, very insistent voice. The rest of him was ecstatic just to be with her, and wanted her to know that before they went any further than petting.

Heavy petting, he mentally amended when a gentle nibble at the base of her throat prompted her to tighten her hold, a soft, needy whimper emerging from parted lips.

When he made love to her, he wanted privacy and a bed, both of which were lacking at the moment. Even more preferable were an abundance of time and enough control to go slowly. To savor the experience.

Sighing soundlessly, Cloud opened his eyes to look at the woman in his arms, shifting his hold to hug her against his chest. Finding the sensitive spot behind her ear, he breathed her name as both question and endearment: "Tifa?"

"Hmmm?" she rubbed her face, kittenish, against his shirt, her slim form relaxed and almost drowsy.

Cloud smiled, his expression hidden in her hair. "Did you really want any of this ice-cream, or was it just a prop? 'Cause it's going to make a horrible mess if we don't put it back in the freezer soon." He leaned back a bit as he said it, in order to watch her face.

While his tone was still soft and gentle, albeit teasing, the words were unexpected, and took a moment to register. When they did, Tifa's eyes flew open, her head turning toward the forgotten carton as if she expected to see a puddle already spreading underneath it. Cloud brought his forehead to rest against her temple as she exhaled in relief, and she could see his smile out of the corner of her eye. She leaned into him, letting her eyes fall closed again as his lips ghosted across her cheek.

"I don't think anyone should eat that ice-cream," she answered, her tone a match for the teasing in his. "Zack dug it out of the bottom of the cafeteria freezer."

That surprised a soft chuckle out of him, even as his mouth shifted to press a kiss to the corner of hers. "No wonder it could pass for concrete," he commented, wryly.

Tifa's smile widened, and she nuzzled his palm as his fingers moved to cup her cheek, coaxing her to turn back to meet his kiss. It was sweet but brief, his other hand finding her knee as he straightened, signaling she should let him go. Pouting a bit she did, her legs sliding free and her heels falling to thunk lightly against the under-counter cabinets. Cloud just grinned and dropped another kiss on her mouth, before stepping away to pick up the ice-cream carton and carry it to the sink.

"Why don't you take a shower while I clean up in here?"

Reluctantly dragging her gaze from his butt to her damp and somewhat sticky shirt, Tifa bit her lip in indecision. On the one hand, she wanted to spend as much time with him as possible: she would be heading back to Nibelheim on Monday, and they'd already wasted most of the week. On the other, a shower meant she'd have an excuse to change into something 'more comfortable'. Her smile turned mischievous and vaguely naughty at the thought. Now that they were officially a couple, Tifa had every intention of sleeping in Cloud's bed for the rest of her stay. She wanted to be held and kissed and cuddled; to fall asleep wrapped up in him. Maybe even more, if things continued to feel so right. Either way, the lingerie from the night before should help her convince him if he needed any persuading to share.

"Tifa?" He was eyeing her over his shoulder as he ran hot water over the carton of ice-cream, the shadow of a smirk curving his lips.

Blinking, she realized she was still sitting on the counter, fingers plucking idly at her shirt while she plotted her way into a night of snuggling. Flushing slightly, she hopped down and pressed a kiss to his jaw. "You'll be here when I get back?" she asked, mostly teasing but with a trace of worry. "No more ducking out on me?"

Expression softening, Cloud dipped his head to affectionately rub his nose against hers. "I'll be here. Come find me when you're finished."

"Anywhere?" She didn't want to enter his bedroom and intrude on his privacy without permission.

Bumping her nose with his once more, he turned back to the sink. "Anywhere."

His easy agreement warmed her all the way down to her toes, and she gave him a brief but jubilant hug before vanishing into the guest room. "I won't be long!"

Pleased himself, Cloud finished thawing the ice-cream and rinsed the last milky traces down the drain. The sound of the shower was faintly audible when he turned off the kitchen faucet, and his mind briefly wandered to a fantasy of Tifa, naked and wet in the small white cubicle. Willfully, he redirected his thoughts back to the kitchen and the sundae toppings still scattered on the counter. Must not rush things. Must not rush things. The phrase could be his new mantra.

Once he finished putting everything away, he stripped off his shirt and tossed it into the corner hamper in his room, before moving into the en-suite to run a cloth over his chest, washing away the sticky residue of their aborted food fight. He'd just turned on his computer and pulled on a clean shirt when he heard the shower shut off; when Tifa appeared in the doorway ten minutes later, lightly tapping her fingers on the frame, he'd logged onto the Shin-Ra HR site. "Come in!" he called, humor an undercurrent in his voice -he'd already told her she was welcome. Turning his head, his breath caught at the sight of her in the same lingerie she'd worn the night before, brain momentarily short-circuiting.

Tifa had been very particular when she'd purchased her 'seduction' pajamas. She'd wanted something tempting but still innocent, sexy but not risque. After much consideration, she'd finally decided on a set made of a silky, semi-sheer fabric the same ultramarine shade as Cloud's eyes when they went dark and intent.

Like they were doing now, as his gaze slowly raked her form; taking the time to observe everything, where previously he'd resisted the urge.

The top had a loose boat-neck collar that fastened with a ribbon tie at the base of her throat. Arranged with artful care, one cap-sleeve rested demurely on her shoulder, while the other slid lower, around her bicep. Both were slashed, revealing hints of the skin beneath, and buttoned at the cuffs, which were touched with just a hint of lace. Soft, billowy fabric fell from the neckline to cover her breasts, outlining her curves, slightly darker patches a telltale indicator of the rosy crests beneath. At her ribs, a wide band gathered the fabric in close to her body, two buttons ensuring it wouldn't ride up and give any more of a show than was strictly intended.

Her midriff was left bare, so her flat tummy could beckon the brush of his fingers.

Matching shorts clung to her hips, held there by a band identical to the one under her breasts. As with the sleeves, each cuff was edged with lace, and satin ribbons were threaded around each leg, just at the crease between body and thigh, inexorably drawing Cloud's eyes to the join between them.

Biting the inside of her lip to keep from smiling too widely and ruining the guileless image she presented, Tifa watched as he swallowed and then licked his lips, mouth hanging partially open, blue eyes wide and slightly glassy. It wasn't until she moved, tucking her right arm behind her back to cup the inside of her left elbow, the fingers of her left hand toying with the satin tie on her leg, that he snapped out of his daze. Pleased amusement shone in her eyes, and the corners of his crinkled in response before he shook his head.

"Does your father know you packed that?" he teased, turning back to the computer screen.

Walking up behind him, she slid her arms down his shoulders and over his chest, leaning forward to whisper her answer in his ear: "It's for your eyes only. He doesn't even know I own it." When his lids fluttered closed and he swallowed again, tilting his head to let her breath play along his throat, she laughed. "I bought it here, in Midgar." Resting her chin on the top of his head, she added a soft but firm reminder: "I'm a big girl now, legally an adult. Daddy doesn't really have a say anymore." Cloud brushed his lips against her arm in wordless agreement, and she subsided, satisfied. "So... what are you doing?"

"I'm putting in for leave. Maybe I can go home with you on Monday." His response was easy, fingers once again moving over the keyboard.

"Really?" Surprised but pleased she tightened her hold, hugging him just a bit harder.

"I told you I'd planned to go back to visit once I was promoted," he answered, taking his turn to remind her of the way things were between them. "And I thought maybe you'd like some company."

"Of course I would!" Tilting her head to press her cheek against his hair, she let her fingers play with a few of his longer spikes. It was just...she hadn't even considered that he might be ready to return after his five year absence. Not when she didn't want to leave, and was only going home because of the things she'd left unfinished. Because it was expected, not because it was what she wanted herself. But she hadn't been invited to stay any longer, and while she had worked and saved enough to rent a room in Nibelheim, she couldn't afford a cardboard box in Midgar.

As if he could tell what she was thinking, he angled his head back to look at her. "You're welcome to stay, Tifa," he told her, his tone a touch hopeful, "or to come back and visit again. Anytime."

For which assurance he earned a smile and an upside-down kiss. "Not now," she answered, "but... soon?"

Mako-blue eyes stared deep into warm brown, reading the sincere certainty there, and then he nodded. "Soon."

Withdrawing so he could finish filling out forms or whatever else his request for leave entailed, Tifa moved to sit cross-legged on the bed to begin braiding her hair. Cloud's unspoken fascination with her long tresses, coupled with her position and the fact that she was on his bed threatened to derail his thought processes again, and he stole a number of glances her way as he navigated the HR jungle.

Except for the soft clack of his keyboard and the rustle of her clothing, the room was silent for the next few minutes. A companionable quiet.

Until Tifa remembered something Zack had said, and decided to ask about it. "Cloud?" she began, her tone hesitantly curious, "What's the VCG?"

To her surprise he froze, cheeks flushing pink under his tan, a reaction which made her even more interested in his answer.

"Why? Did Zack mention it?" Cloud sincerely hoped he didn't sound as blind-sided as he suddenly felt.

She nodded, fingers nimbly twisting and weaving silken strands into a neat rope. "He said something about knowing you had the wrong idea if you were visiting the VCG."

Thank you, Zack! Cloud thought, rather acidly. Clicking submit on his completed leave request, he pushed away from the computer and turned to face her, folding his arms in an unconsciously defensive pose. "I'm not really sure how best to explain it," he told her, truthfully. It wasn't that it was a difficult concept; it was that it could very easily be a touchy one. He didn't want to upset Tifa. Ever.

"Well, what does VCG stand for?" she asked, reasonably.

Flushing even more, Cloud emphatically decided he wouldn't be explaining that. Not yet, anyway, and never if he had any choice. It didn't help that she'd finished her braid and was watching him with an expression of mixed amusement and confusion. "It's... it's a training simulator," he finally managed. Again, a truthful answer, albeit a misleading one.

"Training," she replied, her tone containing laughter and skepticism commingled.

It prompted him to wonder if Zack had already explained this, and she just wanted to see if she'd get the same answer twice. That thought eased some of his discomfort. Tifa teasing was much better than Tifa angry or hurt. He could deal with teasing. "Acclimation training," he elaborated, reaching out to take her hands in his. "Learning how to adjust to our enhanced strength and reflexes. It's... almost frightening to realize what you can do after just the first stage of treatments." He glanced at her face, briefly, before returning his attention to their joined hands. "Candidates go in with better than average response times or bench-press ratings, and – a few hours later – come out with the ability to dart across a room twice as fast as before, and able to crush concrete blocks with one hand."

Tifa watched as his thumbs stroked over the backs of her hands, his touch gentle. Light. Careful. Turning her hand, she playfully trapped his thumb under hers, prompting him to glance upward again. "So... this VCG thing helps you learn how to avoid harming innocent building materials?"

Her smile and her teasing invited him to relax, but he wasn't quite yet ready. Hurting her had been a very real fear for him. "Well, it wasn't really building materials Shin-Ra was worried about when they developed the VCG," he explained. "It was something far more precious and... and irreplaceable." Blue eyes darted another quick look at her face, read understanding there. He cleared his throat in an effort to quell another rush of awkwardness. "The primary impetus was to avoid lawsuits, but it's not unusual for SOLDIERs to be in established relationships, and there were some... incidents, early on, where wives or girlfriends were hurt." Thankfully, all such injuries had been fully treatable with materia, but that didn't erase the pain of them, or help with the shock and horror felt by both the SOLDIER and the woman involved. "So they designed the VCG. It's a virtual reality simulator that's supposed to help us realize just how strong we are, in an environment where nobody can get hurt – physically or emotionally. No matter how carried away a guy gets." His gaze was focused firmly on their bare feet, not daring to chance another look at her face, especially not when he could feel how his cheeks were on fire. "And you just sort of... practice... until you don't, um, lose control."

Eyeing his blond head, flushed face, and bowed shoulders, Tifa couldn't help thinking he was adorable. His embarrassment was obvious: it must be difficult to tell your girlfriend you've been 'practicing' having sex with her using a computer simulation. Because there wasn't a doubt in her mind that his virtual girl was a facsimile of herself. He was probably wondering if she was going to be offended. On the contrary, she was flattered. And touched. Tifa was very quick on the uptake, and had heard all the things he hadn't said while giving his explanation. She suspected that Cloud had erred on the side of caution when learning to control his enhanced strength, to the point that he'd been excessive. All just to be certain he never hurt her. It was also safe to assume that he'd exhaustively studied the program's repertoire of positions and techniques, so he could be sure to be good at it. That she would enjoy it. Tifa would wager her boyfriend could double as a sex encyclopedia.

She took a slow, deep breath to control the tingles that particular realization brought with it.

Poor Cloud was still looking a bit like he expected to be slapped or yelled at, though. Since he was still staring rather determinedly at their feet, she wiggled her toes at him in an attempt to ease his anxiety. "Do you like it?"

Surprised, he raised his gaze to her face, and found her grinning at him, her expression distinctly pleased. Maybe even a touch smug. "What?"

"My nail polish." Shifting to rest her toes against his, she wiggled them again.

He blinked, and she giggled. The sound seemed to wash away his lingering disquiet, and he smiled, realizing that – as far as Tifa was concerned – the subject of the VCG was closed. "It's very..." he paused as if considering, "...pale? Almost natural."

She laughed aloud at that, and tapped his arm with the end of her braid. "That's probably why it's called 'clear coat'," she answered, wrinkling her nose at him and his deadpan teasing. "Aerith did it the day we went shopping."

"And when was that?" A smile played around his mouth when he noted that the tie in her hair was made of the same blue ribbon and lace that were used on her pajamas; the polish on her fingers the same as had been used on her toes. It was... charming. She was charming.

"Wednesday while you were on duty." Even knowing how much more advanced and busy Midgar was compared to home, the variety of shops and goods available had been surprising. To say nothing of the theaters and restaurants and such. Which reminded her: "Did you know Zack has a fan club?" He shook his head, one eyebrow raised in doubtful inquiry. "Aerith and I met a few of the members while we were shopping. I'm supposed to ask if you know how it got its name."

"Oh?" His tone was quietly pleased that she was already trying to use him as an informant. "What's it called?"

"Puppy Love." The suppressed humor in Tifa's voice was easily subsumed by Cloud's outright laughter.

"'Puppy' was the nickname Zack's earliest SOLDIER mentor gave him," he explained, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms behind his head while he laughed. "He was a bit hyperactive when he first signed up."

"Was?" Tifa asked, in tones of disbelief. "You mean more so than now?"

That prompted more chuckles as he nodded. "I guess someone found out about the nickname," he added, shrugging with unconcern. "Does Zack know he has a fan club?"

"Aerith doesn't think so. She was planning to tease him about it tonight." Reaching out, she grabbed a pillow from the head of the bed, and slid down to lie on her stomach, making herself comfortable.

Distracted by the way her movements caused her muscles to flex and her breasts to bounce, it took him a moment to remember that he should really say something. "He'll probably be torn between horror due to the name, and excitement that he's joined the ranks of Sephiroth and Genesis."

"And you."

"Me?" Cloud stilled, staring at her in shock.

Chin snugged into his pillow, she grinned back at him. "You've had a fan club for over a year now! It's called 'Golden Chocobo' – because you're rare and wonderful and have such great hair-" And then she had to stop talking, because he was tickling her and she really needed to save her breath for giggling. "You get a chocobo charm for signing up," she managed to gasp out, the first time he gave her a break. "Members are supposed to wear it on a bracelet, and add a little chocobo footprint charm for every time they spot you!" That tidbit of information was, of course, cause for another round of tickle-torture. "Stop stop stop!" she finally begged, "I give! Uncle!" Her head was hanging partially off the bed, both of her legs were trapped under his thigh, and her wrists were held in one of his hands while the other danced across her ribs.

Subsiding, he collapsed beside her, leaning on his elbow to watch her as they both caught their breath. Or, rather, as she panted for air and he struggled not to think about what her wriggling and squirming had done to him. Once she could manage it, she turned her head and tugged on his shirt. "Cloud?"

Good humor flickered around his mouth and glowed in the heightened mako-blue of his eyes. "What?"

"Do you think I should get a charm for every time you left and then came back a few hours later? Or maybe just one for every day I've been here? One for every hour? That would be a lot of charms..."

At that point, kissing her was really the only option.

Tifa uttered a soft, contented sigh as his lips found hers, the hand on his shirt tightening its hold, while the other crept up to tangle in his hair. Where before his kisses had been hungry and inflaming, passionate, these were slow and almost soothing. He kissed her softly, lips lightly and repeatedly brushing over hers, gradually shifting to a gentle pressure. Thoroughly, as if he had all the time in the world, and wanted to do a proper job. Tenderly, leaving her breathless but relaxed. Languorous.

And – to his own lazily enamored gratification – very, very clingy. When he pulled back, she turned into him, snuggling closer. His palm rubbed idle circles on her back as he nuzzled her cheek, and dusted kisses over her hair and shuttered eyes. When her fingers slipped from his nape to rest on his shoulder, he captured them in his own to nibble carefully at the tips, prompting a drowsy smile.

Tifa decided that she must have melted when he started kissing her. It explained how she'd managed to press herself so closely against him without either of them being poked by inconveniently placed knees or elbows. Obviously, her bones had vanished, leaving her limbs heavy and cumbersome. Cloud would just have to carry her when it came time to move. That was alright, though, because she felt wonderful: safe and cozy and brimming with affection where she lay sheltered by his lean form, perfectly happy to remain where she was indefinitely. The way he radiated heat stole any will to move, much like lying in the sun on a hot day.

Apparently she'd voiced that aloud, for he exhaled a soft laugh as he nuzzled her hair. "It's the mako," he murmured, "I'm your own personal space-heater."

"Electric blanket," she corrected sleepily, wiggling her left arm just a bit for emphasis. "This side's cold."

Another warm puff of laughter played against her temple. "All right then." Gently disengaging her hold on his shirt, Cloud rolled to his feet as she grumbled a protest. He turned to find her burrowing into the space he'd just vacated. "Come on, Tifa, let's get you in bed," he coaxed.

Dark lashes lifted, allowing one bleary brown eye to give him a stern look. "Staying here."

His answering smile was soft. "If you want."

"Mmm," she agreed, dragging her head up and down on the covers a few times in what he took to be a nod.

A moment later her breathing started to even out, and he sighed. Scooping her up long enough to pull the covers back, he resettled her between the sheets, amused that she wriggled around until she found the warm imprint of their bodies. He retrieved the pillow that had fallen to the floor during their earlier play, dropping it on the bed only to have slender arms snake out and wrap around it like it was a teddy bear. Shaking his head, he left her dozing while he wandered through the apartment, turning out the lights; he returned to find her sitting up and staring into the dark with half-open eyes.

"Cloud?" she called as the door latched behind him, and he remembered that to her, the gloomy room was pitch black.

"It's me," he answered, padding across the floor to slide under the covers himself.

Her voice was drowsy but playfully petulant as she patted the mattress next to her. "Come here."

"I was planning to." Cloud's was teasingly agreeable. He shifted to spoon her, pillowing her head on his arm while the other curled around her waist, his hand open and relaxed where it rested against her tummy. Tifa scooted closer still, arms tight around her pillow and her bottom snug against his heat, one leg drawn up in front of her. When he mimicked her position, his thigh pressing tightly between and against hers, she sighed, the sound pleasantly satisfied.

"I like this," she confessed in a whisper, yawning.

He pressed a kiss to her shoulder, savoring the warmly sweet vanilla scent that clung to her skin. "I do, too."