"How do you know Rude?"

Tifa shifted her eyes from Scarlet's retreating back to Cloud's curious and hard blue gaze. They were both lying flat on the ground, on their stomachs, behind some of the rubble inside the Gongaga reactor. "I don't, not really," she responded, brows furrowing in confusion. Shouldn't Cloud be more concerned about what Shin-Ra was up to, than about how she might know the close-mouthed Turk? "He came into Seventh Heaven a few times, but we never spoke beyond giving and taking his order."

"He has a crush on you." The words were gruff and direct, and he smirked a bit when her eyes widened. "It's why he never attacks you. Are you sure there isn't something you need to tell me?" It was almost unheard of for a Turk to back down from a fight, especially when he or she had been ordered into it. Rude obviously had it bad for Tifa. The thought made his gut tighten and his jaw clench and his hand ache to punch the other man in the face.

"Yes, I'm sure," Tifa's tone was more than a little annoyed. What was Cloud trying to imply? "I'm a friendly person, and sometimes people like me." Sarcasm was usually his weapon, but she could wield it as well. "It has little to do with anything I may or may not have done." He should know that first hand: there was a time when he'd had a crush on her himself, and she'd scarcely said one word to him. Now he hardly seemed to remember her. Where her feelings had grown steady and constant, his seemed to have lessened over time, and turned fickle. He grunted, seemingly ignorant of her point, and her temper frayed a bit more. "Why do you care, anyway? Jealous?"

The next thing she knew he'd flipped her over and was straddling her thighs. Her hands were firmly clasped in his, and pressed into the ground on either side of her head. Most importantly, he was kissing her. In a way he hadn't since before they met Aerith. His tongue swept between her lips, possessive and fierce, staking his claim. It only lasted a minute, but in that time he took all she had to offer, giving back the warmth of his body and the blistering heat of his arousal, leaving her gasping.

"No," he answered, releasing her and rising smoothly to his feet, "I'm not." Almost reflexively he offered his hand to pull her up as well, then abruptly turned his back and walked away, moving to examine the reactor core.

Only the bee-stung feel of her lips told her he'd lied.