Family Matters

Cloud Strife smiled as he watched Denzel and Marlene playing with the other kids in the neighborhood. Occasionally, one of the children would turn around and wave at him, and he would smile and wave back from the porch where he was sitting from, and then either Denzel or Marlene would go back to playing tag or whatever game it was that was responsible for the giddy laughter and the loud guffaws.

The laughter still astounded him at times. Even now, months after Sephiroth's second return and subsequent defeat, Cloud still could not believe how his kids were able to cope so well after all that has happened.

A small grin appeared on his face at the thought. His kids. Certainly, Barret Wallace still remained to be Marlene's legal father, but for all intents and purposes, he, Cloud Strife, was her parent, as well as Denzel's. Together with Tifa Lockhart, he looked after the raising of the two children.

He wasn't sure which amazed him more, that he was living together with the girl that he has loved all his life, the fact that he now had a family to go home to, or the fact that he had children of his own.

He, Cloud Strife, the boy who was once mocked for being fatherless, was now a father.

At first, he was hesitant to step into the role, reluctant to fill those too-big shoes, especially since he had no one to model his actions from. Even so, he seemed to be doing alright, if Marlene's kisses and Denzel's hugs were any indication.

Of course, that's not saying that there weren't any bumps, as there certainly were. Cloud wryly grinned when he remembered the irate call he received from Denzel's teacher, demanding why a little boy of 12 is bringing such a large sword for show-and-tell. There was also the time when Marlene came home angry because she fought with her friends, arguing with them that the sparkly vampire they were all going gaga over had nothing on her true-to-life vampire-like uncle who slept in a real, honest-to-goodness coffin. It took all of Tifa's mothering skills and Cloud's negotiating abilities to smooth that over, and even then, Vincent Valentine still hasn't completely forgiven his friends for unleashing screaming, giggling ten-year-olds at him.

Still, everything's worth it in the end, especially in these times when he sees the happiness of the children. Cloud sighed contentedly as he watched the kids laughing. He might be surprised at how much fate was smiling at him these days, but he sure as heck was going to accept it without any complaints.

"Was that a sigh of sadness or happiness?"

Cloud jerked slightly at the unexpected sound of someone's voice behind him and then relaxed when he saw who it was. Tifa smiled at him, but her eyes radiated concern. "Happiness. I just can't believeā€¦" He stopped, trying to grasp at the right words to say.

The worry in Tifa's eyes disappeared and she walked until she was beside him, plopping down on the arm of the chair Cloud was sitting in. "You can't believe just how blessed we are right now?" She intuited.

Cloud nodded. He knew that Tifa knew that he wasn't all that good with words.

She smiled understandingly. "Yeah, I know. Me too, but I think it's important that we just enjoy this moment, you know? That we're here, and we're a family."

"A family. And that's all that matters," Cloud said softly, entangling his fingers with hers.