(Author's Note: This is my first submission to , but that doesn't mean I'm an inexperienced writer. All readers should know that I'm a big CloudxTifa fan and most of my oneshots are about them and I go for more of a humorous spin than most. Hilarity will ensue. Please comment and enjoy!)
In Vino, Veritas
"Alright, are you ready?" Tifa asked. It was hot today and she had her leather vest unzipped a bit. The bar was closed on Sundays and she and Cloud were sitting at the bar, opposite each other. The fans were going full speed, and Cloud leaned back in his barchair to take advantage of the breeze.
"Remind me why we're doing this again," he said.
Tifa smiled and cracked open a bottle for him, handing him one and opening another for herself. At least the bottle was cold. He pressed it against his face, enjoying the chill.
"We're doing this because local breweries have asked us to carry some microbrews. Publicity and all that. You know, with all the popularity and business from that Remnant deal a few months back. They are willing to offer a generous sum if we approve their brews."
"So we have to taste-test them to be sure we approve?"
"Of course. I never lie." At his incredulous scoff, she hastily amended, "Accept in dire situations or for a surprise. So you can stop laughing, Strife."
Dutifully, he lifted the microbrew and took a sip. He rolled it around in his mouth then swallowed, thoughtful. "That's not too bad," he said. "Nice taste."
"Mmmm." Tifa set down the bottle and made a note on the chart she had made for this occasion. "Nice nutty flavor to it. I think it'll be a good addition." She took a few more quick swigs and once again Cloud found himself amazed at the sheer quantity of alcohol the woman could pack away. Despite all her femininity and gentleness, she could probably drink him under the table any day.
Capping that microbrew and setting it aside as Tifa did, he said, "I thought microbrews were usually served in restaurants."
Selecting two more from the crate she had on the bar, Tifa nodded. "Usually. But they want to get some more publicity and I won't turn down their money. Besides, we serve meals just as much as we serve drinks here, so it sort of goes along." She handed him another and they twisted off the caps and drank.
Tifa crinkled her nose in disgust. She looked remarkably cute when she did that, he thought. "No," he said, decidedly setting that one aside.
"No," she agreed, and with a slash of her pen, struck a name off the chart.
Opening a third bottle she handed him, Cloud decided to strike up a conversation - these things must be more potent than he thought if he felt in the mood to shoot the breeze. "So, you sure the kids will be gone long enough?" He doubted it would be a good role-model appropriate scene if the kids walked in and found the two totally plastered.
Nodding, Tifa took a sip. "They're with Barret for the next few days, so even if we overindulge, our sainthood will be unchanged in their eyes." She looked thoughtful and took another slow sip. "What do you think?"
He took a sip. Interesting. Very... citrusy. "I'd drink it," he said after a moment.
Satisfied with that answer, she made a check mark on the chart. "So, how's the mercenary business coming?" Tifa asked. She nestled down on her own barstool as she cracked open another brew.
Cloud shrugged. "The rep says it'll still be some time before anyone gets word of me. Mercenary business is mostly word of mouth."
"Make sure Yuffie to gives you some of that materia she 'borrowed,'" Tifa said. "She isn't going to get away with that trick again!" As though to underscore this statement she took a long swallow and Cloud followed suit.
"Oh my," Tifa said, and she appraised the bottle again with greater respect.
"Now that's a good one," Cloud said appreciatively. They both took another drink and didn't bother to put it aside.
"Blue Moon Mircrobrew. We have to get this one, if only for ourselves," Tifa said. Cloud grunted agreement, as he was currently busy savoring another mouthful.
They finished off that one and were both regretful when they found the small bottle had emptied much too soon. "Oh well, here's to another," Tifa said. They simultaneously opened the new bottles and drank at the same time.
A second later, they were both spitting it back into the bottle. Tifa made retching sounds and, snatching the bottle from his hand, dumped it down the drain. "Dear god, people drink this stuff?"
Cloud was inclined to agree with her assessment, wiping the taste from his lips with the back of his hand, and reached for the next one she thrust into his hand, eager to rinse the awful flavor from his mouth.
Tifa cocked her head to the side and licked her lips then took another sip. She looked so silly, like a goat tasting something new, that Cloud chuckled. She grinned at him. "Oh my, the hero laughs, does he?"
"Indeed," he said. "And they made a note of both occasions when I did." Struggling to keep a straight face, he took a solemn swig of the microbrew. A wave of warmth washed over him, not unpleasant, as he drank. He was beginning to feel a little light-headed and that was probably why he grinned at her when she started laughing at his little comment.
"I love it when you do that," she said, taking a drink.
"Say things like that. I mean, you've got this, like, hardass, badboy look going and you say stuff like that and it's just the cutest thing ever." She closed her eyes, like a satisfied cat, and nodded, smiling. "I just want to hug you when you do that."
"I am not cute," he protested.
"I am not!"
"And cuddly," she added.
Tifa just laughed and raised the bottle - only to find it empty. "Oh shit. Did you like that one? I can't even remember tasting it."
Cloud looked down at the one in his hand and found it empty as well. "Huh. I can't remember."
They regarded each other for a moment. Then, shrugging, Tifa said, "Well, it didn't make us gag, so it must've been good."
Cloud chuckled at that logic. A feeling of euphoria was beginning to come over him and he smiled affably at the world. "These things are potato," he said dreamily.
Tifa paused. "What?"
"I said these things are potent."
She burst out laughing, slapping the bartop. "You said potato!"
"No I didn't."
"Yes you did!"
"Shaddup and gimme the next one. What kind of bar is this?"
Laughing, she handed him the next one. However, just as she raised it to her lips, she started laughing again and thumped the bartop with her fist. "Potato!" was the only thing she could gasp out.
"Come on, it wasn't that funny," he said. Despite his reproving tone, he found himself smiling a little as well.
But Tifa just shook her head and laughed. Cloud polished off his drink and waited for Tifa as she eventually composed herself and followed his example. They sampled several more, approving most of them. Somewhere along they way, the forgot to merely 'sample' and proceeded to finish every one they found to their liking. "I really like that one," Tifa said eventually. She mangled the sheet as she wrote down the name, dragging the pen drunkenly across the paper. "We're keeping it."
Cloud shrugged and burped, surprising himself. Tifa just chuckled as she wrote on the chart. "Which one are we on?" he asked, accepting another brew from her unsteady hands.
"I think the seventh," she said. "I lost count."
They drank in unison. "Not bad," Cloud decided. "Kinda bland."
Tifa agreed and made note of this lack on the chart. In the ensuing silence, Cloud finally asked, "I don't look like a bad guy, do I?"
She looked up, startled. "Wha?"
"You said I looked like a bad guy." He unexpectedly found this news more distressing than he would've thought. Anxious, he ran a hand through his hair, as if it were the cause of this upsetting new assessment on his appearance.
Tifa laughed. "I said bad boy, not bad guy."
"Oh." A pause. "That's good, right?" Damn, this chair needed to be fixed. The room kept moving underneath him.
Tifa grinned at him lasciviously and winked. "Bad boys are sexy," she said. "I love bad boys."
He felt his face flush at this obvious compliment, but he also smiled. "Well," he said. "Good to hear." He took a long swig of the bottle, not really tasting it, just knowing he needed the excuse to look away from her.
Chuckling, Tifa drank. "I ever tell you what beautiful eyes you have?" she said, gazing at him fondly.
Cloud considered this question seriously. After a long moment of contemplation he shook his head in the negative. "Nope."
"Well you do."
"You're welcome." Drawing out another microbrew from the crate she squinted at the label, then snorted. "This one is called Meteor."
They looked at each other for a moment then said, "Pass," at the same time. For some reason, they both found that immensely funny and started laughing helplessly. Tifa nearly fell off her barstool and her momentary expression of wide-eyed, concentrated panic as she flailed for the edge of the bartop sent Cloud into a paroxysm of laughter. Finally, through deep breaths and the occasional collapse into a fit of chuckles, Cloud took his hands away from his face and grinned at Tifa drunkenly.
"I'm drunk," he announced. And they both laughed at that.
"Just the way I like it," Tifa said.
Nodding once, she said, "Because I get to do this!" Standing on tiptoe, she reached across the bar, grabbed him by a baldric, hauled him forward and gave him a very passionate and somewhat sloppy kiss. When she released him, he fell bonelessly back into his chair. While he recovered, Tifa opened another bottle for each of them.
He accepted it automatically, thinking that she was a damn good kisser and wondering how she had acquired such a talent... and if she'd been holding back on that kiss. The idea that he should find out if there was more to her kissing skills that may not have been unveiled in that one meeting was sorely tempting. Cloud decided to make a pass, though belated.
"If you could bottle that-" He stopped, staring at her blankly.
She raised her eyebrows. "Hmm?"
He scratched his head and stared at her some more. "If you could bottle that..."
She looked at him expectantly.
He blinked. "I forgot what I was 'bout to say." Disgruntled by this fact, he took a swig, then let out his breath. "Good one," he said, holding it up. Tifa made a note.
Suddenly, he slapped his hand on the bar, making her jump. "If you could bottle that, it'd be my favorite drink!" He nodded once, decisively, and solemnly saluted this feat of memory recall by finishing off the bottle.
Tifa giggled helplessly into her hands. "Why Cloud, I'm flattered."
Shaking her head, Tifa appeared to drop contesting the fact and changed the topic instead, happily taking sips from her bottle, "I thought you were so amazing when you killed Bahamut."
He grinned at her stupidly. "Really?'
Tifa nodded, propping her cheek up on her hand. "And when you landed all like, cool and everything, I was so proud. That's my Cloud," she said, addressing a crowd of invisible bystanders that had been present that day, flinging her arms out to encompass the size of the watching masses. "My Cloud. I live with him," she continued to brag. In a sudden change of mood, she turned large dark eyes on him in worry and said, "But I was so scared when you went up to kill that thing, you know? I was terrified you wouldn't make it." Then she smiled slyly. "But I should've known better. You've got sunblock. Megaflare never stood a chance." She appeared immensely satisfied with this conclusion and took a drink.
Cloud chuckled and sipped. "I don't like this one," he declared after long deliberation and half the bottle. While she made a note, he said the first thing that came to his alcohol-soaked mind. "Are those real?" he asked, gazing at her chest.
At first, she didn't understand. When comprehension struck, she gaped at him, looking amazed and slightly insulted.
"Not that I'm complaining," he hastily assured her. "I've just always wondered."
"Of course they are real!" she said, looking a little peeved. She sat back on her stool, hands on her hips. "Do you believe me or do you want to see the genuine article?"
"Can I?" he asked, smiling at her daffily.
"Nope. I'm not drunk enough."
He sighed. "Then I believe you."
"Damn right you do."
Cloud pressed his hands over his eyes. The room was starting to spin. Had he really just asked to see her boobs? What the hell was wrong with him? This was crazy. He'd heard about drunkeness abolishing inhibition but this... if he remembered this when he woke up tomorrow, he'd never be able to look at her again. That left only one option - get so drunk, he wouldn't remember.
"Another!" he declared and smiled when Tifa put a new bottle in his hand.
They both drank, then Tifa set aside her bottle, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and turned her big, dark eyes on him in an earnest way that made his heart constrict in the most odd of sensations. "Can I touch your-" She hiccuped. "Hair?"
"Sure!" He leaned forward and, giggling, she ran her hands through his hair. It felt rather pleasant and he rested his head on the bartop while she stroked his hair.
"I-" hiccup, "Reserve this right for the future," she declared.
"Mmmhmm," said Cloud, eyes closed, enjoying the caress. Suddenly, Tifa lifted his head off the bar and gave him another unrestrained kiss, which he enjoyed thoroughly. Not trusting her wobbly grip or his own questionable balance, he made sure to brace both hands on the bar - it wouldn't do if she dropped him and smacked his head on the bar.
Oh yeah. She'd definitely been holding back the first time. He was very disappointed when she released him, even though his lungs were screaming for air.
She thrust another bottle at him, grinning. "Drink up, Cloudy. Two more to go."
He took his time in uncapping the bottle and drinking. Tifa was far more intoxicating than any microbrew. After taking a sip, he screwed up his face. It tasted incredibly sour. Or was that just the sharp bite of alcohol after Tifa's sweet kiss? Oh well, he didn't care. "Too bitter," he said.
Tifa nodded and had to reach deeper into the crate to fish out the others. Somehow, she lost her balance during this process and fell off her stool.
"Tifa! Are you okay!" Cloud peered anxiously over the bar but could only see a flung-out arm.
"Owww..." she moaned.
"Hold on!" he said. It's Hero Time, he thought. Now is when the Knight in Shining Armor comes dashing over to Save the Day.
Bracing himself, he slid off the stool and started his heroic dash by falling flat on his face. Grasping the edge of the bar, he pulled himself to his feet and made do with a hurried stumble around the bar to the other side, where Tifa lay sprawled on her back, clutching her head with one hand. She was weakly laughing in between pained moans.
"You okay?" he asked, hurrying over to her anxiously.
The world reeled as he bent over her. The barstool rushed past his vision.
And he was on the floor next to Tifa.
"Nice... of you... to join me!" Tifa gasped, laughing helplessly.
Cloud, still not quite sure how he got down here so fast, put a hand on her head in some half-baked notion of giving comfort. "Okay?" he mumbled.
"Cloud, Cloud, Cloud," Tifa said in a sing-song voice. "My Cloud in the sky; I'm having a Cloudy day; Only one Cloud up above; My Cloud has a silver lining; There's a Cloud in my coffee," she rambled.
She's lost it, he thought. "Are you making these all up right now?"
Tifa grinned at him. "Nope. Been saving 'em."
He smiled back and, with a gentleness unexpected in his inebriated state, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "I like the second one."
Tifa giggled. "I love you, Cloud."
A warm feeling, rather like drinking, flooded through him and he gave her a sloppy smile. "I love ya too, Teef."
Then he promptly passed out.