A/N: First Fan-Fic ever, so please be kind with the comments! I'd also like to explain that I don't know anything about Final Fantasy except for what I've seen in Advent Children. I didn't play Crisis Core so I'm not really sure about Cloud's back story. This is what I know: Cloud and Zach were SOLDIERs, Zach was kind of like Cloud's big brother, Zach died, Cloud blames himself for Zach's death (he also blames himself for that one girl's death, I think her name is Aerith, but I have no idea who the hell she is), I also know that Cloud and Tifa knew each other as kids.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything that has to do with Final Fantasy. But if I could, Cloud would be mine cuz he is one sexy, sexy man!
Cloud slowly walked up the stairs. He'd been out entirely too late, and he knew it. Tifa was definitely going to get mad. He stepped into the room. It was extremely dark and he couldn't see anything, but it hardly mattered. He knew his way around the room. He began to take off all his equipment when the lamp in the corner suddenly turned on and Tifa was looking at him with a stern expression.
"Where were you?" She asked, trying to keep her voice level.
Cloud unstrapped the sword from his back and leaned it up against the wall. "Out."
"Ya, I figured that. Out where?" she put a hand on her hip.
"Cloud, it's five in the morning. I was scared to death!" her voice rose a little.
"Why? I can take care of myself. Nothing can hurt me while I'm out there." Cloud's calm voice infuriated Tifa even more. Why was the man always so calm?
She hesitated. "What about Sephiroth?"
A shadow passed over Cloud's eyes. "Not even him." He said just as calm as before.
Tifa threw her arms up in anger. "You're kidding, right? I'm pretty sure the man has it out for you! Every time you go out, I'm stuck here worried about you! It took me forever to finally get you out of that church and into a normal house with locks on the doors! Why won't you let me take care of you!" Her voice had risen to the point that she was shouting now.
Cloud flinched with every word and sat with his head hung. Tifa instantly felt guilty. Cloud had those damn puppy-dog eyes that made you forget why you were mad at him in the first place. The poor man hated being seen as a failure. He already blamed himself for his two best friends' deaths.
She stepped over and sat next to him, putting a hand on his shoulder and giving it a squeeze. "I'm sorry for yelling."
"No, it's my fault. I shouldn't have been out so late. I'm sorry." he sighed, "I'm sorry."
"Will you shut up?" Tifa said, not angry, but a little frustrated. "You're always saying you're sorry. You can't help everyone, you know."
Cloud looked over at her and gave his signature half-smile. It was captivating, and Tifa was pretty sure he had no idea the effect it had on people, especially her. She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek, making sure the kiss held no affection, merely friendship. She didn't want to scare him off.
She stood and began to walk toward the door. "You should get to sleep. You've been out so late, you'll probably sleep the day away." She stopped. "Are you leaving tomorrow too?"
Cloud hesitated. "I don't know."
Tifa turned. "You promised Denzel and Marlene that you'd play with them. Are you still going to keep that promise?"
Cloud looked up, confused. "Of course."
Tifa shrugged. "It's just that...you said that about a month ago. Denzel...really looks up to you, you know." Again with the damn puppy-dog eyes! She gritted her teeth and didn't back down. "I was thinking, when you wake up, you could take them for a ride on your motorbike."
Cloud nodded. "That would...be good."
Tifa nodded. "Okay, I'll tell them that tomorrow. They'll be looking forward to it, so please don't...conveniently disappear."
Cloud swallowed and shook his head. "I won't."
Tifa turned and headed out the door. "You might want to save time for some of your other friends too." she said before disappearing down the hall.
Cloud sighed and put his head in his hands. He was a failure. He had failed everybody. No matter how many times he tried to reassure himself or how many times dead friends visited him in his dreams and tried to reassure him, he was a failure.
Cloud snapped his head up and saw Denzel in the doorway, wearing his baggy gray pajamas.
"What're you doing up?" Cloud asked as Denzel made his way into the room.
"I don't like it when you leave." Denzel said simply as he sat next to Cloud.
"I'm not leaving this time." Cloud reassured him.
Denzel hesitated. "Can I sleep in here tonight?" Before Cloud could say a word, Denzel continued. "I want to make sure you're still here when I wake up."
How could anyone say no to that face?
Cloud nodded. "Alright." He said.
Denzel smiled wide and rushed to the top of the bed and snuggled under the blanket. "I'm not letting you go anywhere, Cloud."
Cloud smiled and took off his boots. "I'm sure you won't."
Tifa attempted to go about her day but no matter what she did, she always ended up at the door of Cloud's room and couldn't help herself from checking to make sure he was still there. She noticed the two kids were doing the exact same thing every time they ran past his room playing whatever game they had concocted. Every time she looked at him, she hoped he was sleeping peacefully, but his face was always screwed up in pain, as if his dreams were haunting him.
She looked at the clock. It was almost three. He'd been asleep for about ten hours. If he didn't get up soon, he wouldn't be able to make good on his promise. She stepped into the kitchen to make something for him to eat. He'd probably be starving.
"Tifa?" Denzel walked into the kitchen. "When's Cloud getting up?"
Tifa shrugged. "He was out really late last night. I don't think he's had a good-night's sleep in a long time. Just wait, he'll be up before long." She hoped.
"Look who finally woke up!" Marlene said smiling and holding Cloud's hand.
Cloud looked terrible. His hair was more messed up than usual, if that was possible, and his eyes were bloodshot.
"Cloud!" Denzel perked right up.
Despite his appearance, Tifa smiled. "How'd you sleep?"
"Uh, well..." He thought about it for a while as Marlene led him to the table and made him sit.
"Better than normal." he decided.
Tifa nodded, that answer would have to suffice. She stepped over to the table and set a plate in front of him. "Eat." she said. "And then go get dressed. You're taking these two on your motorbike if I have to tie you down and make you do it."
Cloud smiled half-way. That sounded like something Tifa would do.
Denzel watched him eat, followed him to his room, and then waited outside while he got ready.
Cloud walked out of his room and sighed when he saw Denzel standing there. "I'm not going anywhere, Denzel." He said, ruffling the boy's hair.
Denzel didn't looked convinced. "Just making sure." He said, following Cloud downstairs.
"I guess we're off." Cloud said as he pulled on his gloves.
Marlene smiled excitedly and grabbed his hand while Denzel grabbed the other. The two of them practically dragged him outside. Tifa couldn't help but laugh at the sight.
Denzel let go of Cloud's hand and ran to the motorbike and pulled the tarp off.
"Ok, how do we want to do this?" Cloud asked pulling his goggles on.
"Let's go together." Denzel said. "Last time we took turns, Marlene got to ride for longer."
Marlene folded her arms in protest. "Did not." She said defiantly.
Cloud laughed. "Ok. Front or back?"
"Front!" Denzel said quickly. "All I can see is your back when I ride behind you."
"But I want the front!" Marlene said.
"You can both ride up front." Cloud said crossing over to the bike and pulling out two helmets.
Denzel and Marlene both looked disappointed at the prospect of having to wear them.
Cloud looked down at the helmets and completely understood. Wearing a helmet was no fun at all. "Let's just not tell Tifa." He said putting the helmets back and mounting his bike.
The two rushed to him and mounted the bike as well, Denzel in front of Cloud and Marlene in front of Denzel.
"Hold on tight." Cloud said as he started the motor.
Denzel held his breath in excitement as they zoomed off.
Tifa was in the doorway as they took of, folding her arms in disapproval. She'd have to have a talk with Cloud about those helmets.
Tifa turned to find Barret smiling and getting out of his car.
"Hi." She said walking down the steps to greet him.
"Was that Cloud I just saw taking off?"
Tifa smiled and nodded. "Ya, he just took Denzel and Marlene for a ride. They should be back soon though."
Barret nodded. "I was thinking of taking Marlene for the weekend."
"Oh, she'd love that." Tifa smiled. "Well, why don't we go inside and wait. I'll fix you a drink."
Barret followed Tifa inside and sat at the bar. "So, how's Spikey doing?"
Tifa smiled at the nickname Barret had bestowed on Cloud then frowned as she now had to answer the question. "I don't really know. I thought he'd been doing better, but he seems to be falling back into his depressed state." She set Barret's drink down in front of him. "I think he still feels guilty. But I can't understand why. I thought he was getting over it." She paused. "I think he's trying to avoid me."
Barret took a sip of his drink and looked up at Tifa. "You think he still feels guilty?"
"That's why he left last time."
Barret looked down into his drink and thought for a minute. "Do you think it could be something else?"
Tifa looked confused.
"I don't doubt that guilt could be some of his problem, but the root of his depression could be something else." He looked up at her as he took another sip. "You, for example."
Tifa looked even more confused than before, and when he didn't continue, she spoke up. "Why would I be causing him to be depressed?"
Barret smiled but said nothing. "I'm gonna go outside and wait for Cloud to bring Marlene back. You think about what I said." He picked up his drink and headed out the door, leaving Tifa to work out their conversation.
She sat at the table and thought. Could he be saying that Cloud...no. Cloud was not interested in her. He wouldn't be avoiding her if he was in love with her. Love. Definitely not. She stood and shook her head of the thought. She couldn't even be sure she loved him back. She stared at the ground. True, her heart did speed up every time she heard his footsteps coming up the stairs and every time she looked at him her stomach did flips. But was that love? She sat back down and sighed, putting her face in her hands. Of course, she knew that was it. She was in love with Cloud Strife...and he avoided her like the plague. He must have suspected she liked him. That had to be it. Cloud avoided her because he didn't share the same feelings. Tifa's lip quivered but she held back her tears. She was going to have to live with this. It was what's best for everyone.
After dropping the kids back off at the house and exchanging pleasantries with Barret, Cloud zoomed off again. He didn't like the look on Tifa's face and he couldn't even bring himself to look at Denzel, but he couldn't stay...he couldn't handle it.
He killed the motor and dismounted the bike. The sun was setting behind the mountains and Cloud took the opportunity to sit next to the last remnant of his trusted friend and watch the sun go down.
"I'm making a mess of everything, Zach." Cloud said into the night. "The same way I always do."
No one answered. Of course they didn't; the dead can't talk.
Cloud sighed and buried his face in his hands. "What do I do?"
Cloud didn't know why he expected someone to answer. But isn't that the way it's supposed to be? Cloud is confused, so someone tells him what to do?
"You have to figure this one out on your own." Cloud looked up, sure someone had said something, but then realizing it had come from his own mouth.
He closed his eyes, deep in thought. What could possibly happen if he told Tifa his feelings? She could turn him down. He could always return to the church. It wasn't the best place to live, but it was better than living with her and her damn gorgeous face, especially if she didn't return his feelings.
Cloud stood. He'd have to tell her. He needed to get some closure. So what if she says no? At least he'd know and could get on with his life instead of moping around all the time.
He ran to his bike and hopped on. He had to do this fast before he lost his confidence.
Tifa sat on the couch staring at the clock. If Cloud wasn't back in an hour, she was going to go after him, damn it! Poor Denzel had tried to be brave, but she saw the tears begin to fall before he made it to his room. Damn you, Cloud! She thought. You're not just hurting me, but Denzel and Marlene too!
She stood and began to pace. Cloud was giving her such a headache!
The door in the front room opened and shut and Tifa froze. He was back...before midnight!
Cloud entered the room Tifa was currently residing in and stopped in his tracks upon seeing her.
"I thought you'd be asleep." He said softly as he took off his gloves.
"I can't sleep." She said just as soft. "It's hard to do that when you're worried."
Cloud looked at the floor, guilt forming in his features. "I'm sorry to have worried you. I just needed to...think."
"Is that where you were last night? Out thinking?"
Cloud merely nodded. He swallowed. "I...uh...wanted to talk to you about something." he looked sideways at her, trying to read her expression.
Tifa nodded and sat on the couch. "Okay."
Cloud really hadn't planned on what he was going to say, so this next part was bound to be difficult. "I..." he cleared his throat. "I wanted to explain my recent actions...why I've been... disappearing lately."
Tifa tried not to show how anxious she was. Cloud was opening up to her...Cloud!
"I...just wanted to...uh..." he trailed off as he tried to find the right words.
Tifa waited patiently.
Cloud paced for a bit then sat next to her. "We've been friends for a long time, right?"
"Well, it's about that,...our...friendship." He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, hoping she got the hint. Due to her face, he was pretty sure she hadn't. "What I mean to say is that...I...I...lo-"
Cloud was cut off by a sound outside. Without thinking, the both of them jumped to their feet and ran out the door.
Cloud gasped as Sephiroth burst through the explosion, followed by Vincent Valentine.
"Cloud, watch out!" Vincent yelled, shooting at Sephiroth.
Cloud ran inside to retrieve his weapon and bolted back out.
Sephiroth smiled at the sight of Cloud and twisted his sword down in an attempt to slice him down the middle. Cloud barely had time to get out of the way and bring his own sword up to block the blow.
"Well, hello, Cloud." Sephiroth said.
Cloud said nothing as he used all his strength to keep Sephiroth's sword at bay.
Sephiroth, seeing this was getting them nowhere, shoved Cloud back and came for another series of blows. Cloud deflected each skillfully and jumped out of the way of the last one.
"You're a little out of practice, Cloud." Sephiroth said, jumping to the side and bringing his sword down, which was once again deflected by Cloud.
Cloud jumped back and separated his two swords bringing them up and coming in for an attack.
Tifa watched in fear as the two went at it, swords clanging. She gasped with every narrow miss.
"He'll be alright." Vincent said, appearing from nowhere.
Tifa looked at him, closed her eyes, and nodded, still not completely convinced. She watched as Cloud deflected yet another, what would have been fatal, blow and gasped when Sephiroth kicked him in the stomach and sending him flying backward.
Cloud fell to his knees holding his stomach. He looked up at the sword in his face.
"I'm going to kill you, Cloud." Sephiroth said. "And once I do, I'll be able to do what I set out to do from the beginning, and with you out of the way..." He left the sentence hanging and smiled mischievously.
Cloud gritted his teeth and spun out of the way as the sword buried into the tree behind him. He brought his sword down behind Sephiroth, but Sephiroth bounded out of the way before it could do so much a nick him. Cloud hooked the two swords together to make one huge sword and spun it around, readying himself. Swords clanged and sparks flew with each round. Both were skillful swordsmen, but Sephiroth had the upper hand and soon had Cloud up against the side of the building, his sword at Cloud's throat.
"You know you are no match for me, yet you continue to fight." Sephiroth sneered.
Cloud swiftly brought his sword up and knocked Sephiroth's sword out of the way, giving him a chance to escape, but not before he felt a slice on his side. He grunted in pain and held the bleeding wound, but it didn't stop him. It didn't even slow him down. He felt the blood soak his shirt and begin to trickle down his leg.
"Someone has to fight you." Cloud said through gritted teeth. "Why not me?"
Sephiroth came in for another series of blows. Cloud jumped back and deflected each, however, he grunted in pain with each narrow miss.
"Why is it we always stand here and watch?" Tifa said angrily. "Cloud needs our help. We have to do something."
Vincent held up his gun. "I would shoot, but I don't think it would help if I hit Cloud instead. Cloud is the only one who is a match for Sephiroth. Going in there now would prove to be suicidal. Besides, everyone else is rather beaten up at the moment. Our only hope at this point is Cloud." he put a hand to his side, probably trying to suppress a wound.
Tifa sighed and closed her eyes, trying to hold back the urge to just run in and fight. But Cloud had enough to worry about without constantly trying to protect her.
"You cannot win!" Sephiroth was saying between blows.
Cloud was now slowing down, what with the loss of blood and the lack of sleep. He couldn't focus.
Sephiroth sprung in the air and came back down, his sword inches from where Cloud had just been standing. "You're getting slower!" Sephiroth smiled wickedly.
Cloud ducked as Sephiroth brought his sword around and found his opening. With all the strength he had left, he stabbed his sword through the air and watched as it sunk deep within Sephiroth's body.
He smiled and was about to laugh in triumph, when blood seeped out of his mouth and he looked down. Sephiroth's blade was sunk deep in Cloud's chest. He barely heard Tifa scream before he fell to his knees. Vincent caught him before he fell completely and propped him up against a tree.
Cloud swallowed painfully.
"Cloud, don't die, please don't die!" Tifa said, the tears beginning to increase.
Vincent looked at the wound. "He may have a punctured lung."
Cloud looked up at Tifa and smiled slightly. "Did..I kill...him?" He asked, the pain making it hard to speak.
There was no need for an answer as the sword disappeared along with Sephiroth leaving nothing but a few feathers and Cloud's sword stained with Sephiroth's blood.
Cloud brought his hand up and Tifa grasped it. "I..wanted to...tell you...some..thing."
She leaned close to him in order to hear him. "What is it?" She asked.
Cloud brought his other hand up to her cheek and pulled her closer. "Not.. so much...what I wanted...to say...as what I wanted...to do."
She looked confused for only a moment before he brought her lips to his and kissed her. All the strength he had left was put into that kiss.
Tifa was surprised, but eventually gave in and kissed him back. The metallic taste of his blood filled her mouth and she tried not to cry.
"I'm sorry." He said when he pulled away. "I took...too long...to tell you." A tear escaped his eye, the first tear she had ever seen him cry. "I love you."
Tifa cried even harder. "I love you too, Cloud. I always have."
"Cloud!" Denzel screamed as he ran to where Cloud was sitting.
Cloud looked sleepily at the young boy. "I'm sorry." He said. "I should've...spent more...time with you." he coughed and more blood seeped out of his mouth.
Denzel was crying.
Tifa barely heard as the rest of the clan rushed in and gasped at the sight before them.
"We need to get him out of here." Vincent said.
"I'm sorry." Cloud said one last time before he was lifted off the ground.
Tifa put a hand to her mouth and cried as she saw the giant bloodstain on the tree and soaked into the grass. She couldn't move...she couldn't breathe. The man she had taken too long to express her feelings for was bleeding...to death.
A/N: Uh-oh! How could I do such a terrible thing! I'm not sure, do you think Sephiroth is dead or not? It's up to you! But seriously, Sephiroth NEVER dies, I think it's impossible for him, so... Anyway, review and maybe I'll write another chapter! Kind of like an epilogue...thing. I really wanted to write a long story, but after I wrote this I didn't really have anymore ideas so it's more of a one-shot.