Author's note: Finally got this finished :D I had originally planned this to be more of an humorous, romantic fanfic between Cloud and Tifa but it seems like it took its own direction and became a more Romance/Hurt comfort one instead XD

Oh well. Hope that you will still enjoy it ;) I really struggled a bit with this one.

Disclaimer: FFVII world and characters belongs to the respectful owners Square Enix and Tetsuya Nomura.

Purely fanmade. Written just for fun with no ill intentions.

Contructive criticism will be greatly appreciated :)


Under the Stars

Tifa tenderly ran her fingers through Cloud's spiky, blond locks there he had his head rested nice and comfy in her lap. Both looked heartedly up at the beautiful starry sky of Kalm, reminiscing about happier times.

No one said a word. They didn't need to. Their silent understanding of one another was more than enough as they just enjoyed their time together there they were safely secluded on the rooftop of their Inn. Cloud had (to Tifa's surprise) been the one to prompt this trip just after he had finished his deliveries for the day. The bartender had been a bit reluctant at first thinking over who should be the ones to attend to the bar if they left (they needed the income after all), but Yuffie who visited them at the time hurriedly volunteered to look after it. Her sudden proclamation had earned a few sceptical looks from both Cloud and Tifa.

Sure they knew that the young spunky wutaian girl just wanted to be kind and help them, but personal experience told them that she better not. They wanted their home to be intact when they would eventually come back. Cloud had after all not mentioned where they were going or how long they would be gone for.

Thankfully, Vincent was also there at the time, accompanying Yuffie on her visit. Something that was peculiarly weird considering how silent and secluded the gunslinger usually were most of the time. He shrugged it off by saying that he only were there to deliver some important iformation from the WRO organisation he worked for, stating the fact that Yuffie was there had nothing to do with it.

Still a bit sceptical over Vincent's somewhat brief explanation, both agreed that Yuffie would be allowed to attend to the bar for the night, on the grounds that Vincent kept a watchful eye on her during that whole time. Both complied to their wishes and so Cloud and Tifa left, catching a phrase from Yuffie that the two 'lovebirds' as she called them shouldn't smooch too much on their ride to wherever they were going. They might be so preoccupied with each other they could crash into a rock or something she had reasoned.

The ninja's answer were just a simple shake of Cloud and Tifa's head.

A few hours later (unsurprisingly enough without any smooching) and here they were, on a rooftop in Kalm, just enjoying the stars together. They didn't need to worry over Marlene and Denzel's safety since they had both gone over to North Corel with Barret for the weekend. The former AVALANCHE leader had been eager to show them how to exhibit oil from his oil rigs. Marlene had been particularly exited over this trip since she rarely were able to spend time with her adoptive father. Denzel, on the other hand, had been more unsure, wanting to be together with his idol rather than going to a place he had barely visited before, but thanks to Cloud's and Tifa's encouragements (coming mostly from Cloud to everyone's surprise) Denzel had agreed to accompany them. If just for a little while.

He really looks up to you doesn't he, Cloud? Tifa thought absent-mindedly as she continued to run her fingers through Cloud's hair. It never ceased to amaze her of how soft his spikes were. No matter what time during the day, or night, they would always be defying gravity, soft to the touch and outright amazing in their own unique way.

She loved Cloud's hair. She loved him. All of him she had realised not too long ago. She had always done, and would always do. No matter what happened she would always stay by his side. To reassure him, to protect him. To...love him.

She looked down at said blond then, who still had his head in her lap, blinking drowsily there he stared up at the beautiful night sky, blissfully unaware of her thoughts. He seemed to be tired, something Tifa didn't found too surprising when she thought of all the deliveries he had to make on a daily basis. No matter how much she knew he loved his profession, she thought it was sweet of him to do something like this. To take some time off to spend time with her, and only her. Something she wished he would do more often.

He had definitely changed since his battles with the remnants and Sephiroth in Edge five months prior. He smiled easier, laughed easier and was overall more outgoing with her and the kids than before, but yet he had the aura of the Cloud she knew. The shyness and awkwardness from the little boy she had first come to befriend back in Nibelheim all those years ago. Before any of those tragic events ever happened.

Don't want it to be any different. She thought with a warm smile on her lips.

When it looked like Cloud's eyes was about to drift shut, she decided to leave him alone to his dreams and averted her eyes back to the starry sky above her. It was a beautiful sight she had to admit, though not as pretty as it had been back in Nibelheim it was still a sight to behold. She was happy Cloud had taken the intuition to invite her along with him to this place. To marvel at this splendid sight.

"Nibelheim."

"Wh-what?"

Tifa looked down at the spiked blonde upon hearing his voice, startled since she thought he had fallen asleep.

"The stars, they look just like those from Nibelheim." Cloud opened his eyes, his perfect blue orbs fixed to the black velvet of night. The stars matched the eerie glow in his eyes just perfectly and Tifa found herself lost in their obscure beauty for a moment, their depth until he suddenly flicked them towards her. They met her auburn ones in a way that could be described as nothing but perfect. The suddenness of it caused a slight blush to appear on her soft cheeks.

Cloud of course seemed to take notice of this.

"Is something wrong?" He raised an eyebrow at her, and Tifa could swear she saw a little smirk starting to develop in the corners of his mouth, almost as if he knew what kinds of effects he had on her.

"No it's nothing." She averted her eyes, hiding her blush. "I just thought you were asleep...that's all." To her surprise she suddenly heard him start laughing. That really sparked her curiosity which inevitably lead her to look down at him again, completely ignoring the remains of her blush. The sight that met her made her wish that she had brought along a camera.

He was still laying with his head in her lap true, but the way his laughter lightened up his features she would never forget. His eyes closed in mirth as a genuine smile played along his lips, showing off the tiniest glimpse of his teeth. Oh how she loved to see him like that. So...carefree.

She decided to tease him a little for it. "Oh my, I didn't know that the mighty Cloud Strife could laugh!" She mock gasped. "-This is preposterous! We need to take care of this at once!"

"Tifa..." Cloud chuckled, sobering up a little, but his eyes still held the same mirth as he glanced up at her. His striking blue orbs got a slightly concerned edge to them when he noticed the playful smile tugging at the young bartender's lips. She was definitely up to something judging by that all too familiar mischievous glint in her auburn, gentle eyes.

"Tifa? What are you-" Longer he didn't get as said brunette suddenly assaulted his ribs with a wave of relentless tickles, the mischievousness never really leaving her eyes.

It took all of Cloud's willpower not to burst into laughter as he squirmed, trying fervently to get away from Tifa's feathery fingers which for some reason always seemed to find a very ticklish spot. He tried to roll away from her lap at first, but the brunette was merciless as she gave chase. She couldn't allow him to get away that easily!

"Tifa!" He half yelled, half laughed as he tried to protect his sides from her merciless assault with his arms, but with little success since she switched over to attack his neck area instead. The tickles she landed there drove him mad. He couldn't help but snort a little as he did his best to suppress his laughs, and it didn't get any better when she moved back to assault his sides as soon as he removed his arms, seemingly determined to make him squeal out of laughter.

"Playing tough huh? Well, we'll see how long that will last." Tifa said gleefully as she tickled at a particularly ticklish spot right at Cloud's belly button. He jolted, emitting a startled gasp. Now he squirmed more than ever.

"P-please s-stop. Just stop!" Cloud pleaded, desperately trying to curl himself into a ball to avoid her assaults, but to no avail. Instead her tickles only seemed to grow in intensity.

"I-I still don't see how this should keep me from laughing!" He blurted out, still trying to wriggle himself out of her ticklish hold on him.

"That's the point. Now, laugh out or I will never stop." She threatened with a wicked grin, tickling at his belly again.

"Oh?" He retorted mischievously, biting his teeth together to prevent an otherwise unmanly squeal. No way he would let her win! "Don't be so sure about that." Just when she was about to tickle him again, he took hold of her arms and toppled her over so she landed on her back. He immediately started to give her payback for what she just did, tickling her sides and belly until she begged him to stop.

She squealed in a very unladylike manner, responding to his tickles by kicking and lashing out at him with her limbs, kicks and punches without much strength which he deftly dodged before he continued his merciless assault on her, causing her to emit yet another girlish squeal.

"Ha! You squealed. Twice even." He grinned cockily. "Seems like I win."

Tifa had to stop herself from laughing at how childish he looked when he was grinning like that.

"Don't be so cocky, Strife! It's not over yet!" She lunged forward, and once again he found himself squirming under her fingers which mercilessly tickled his sides. They kept going on like that for another minute, until Cloud finally got the upper hand again, and pinned Tifa down to the ground. He efficiently straddled her body between his thighs, a playful smirk playing around the corners of his mouth.

"I won!" He declared. His smirk widened into a genuine smile. The same smile with a flash of teeth Tifa adored so much.

She studied him for a minute, before she cocked her head. "Sure about that? Because I'm not convinced." Before Cloud could even open his mouth to retort (something it looked like he was about to do) Tifa wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down so his lips touched hers. She felt him stiffen a little at first, as if he were taken by surprise, but eventually he gave in and melted against her. Deep cerulean eyes slowly drifted shut to the sensation of her warmth against his body. His lips parting slightly as he deepened the kiss.

Tifa responded by holding him even closer to her. One hand rested at the back of his head as she kissed him harder, yet affectionate. She found his soft lips on hers highly intoxicating, yet loving as he kissed her back. Her other hand traced lazy circles up and down his back, feeling his firm, yet slender muscles flex and relax under her touch as he shifted a little. His body covered her like a warm blanket, although he made sure to keep his torso up with his forearms so his weight wouldn't feel too uncomfortable to her. His lips never left hers as he kissed her gently, lovingly. Like if she was his most valued treasure. Their lips moving in perfect sync as he did so.

They stayed like that for a long moment, just exchanging kisses until Tifa slowly managed to manoeuvre the spiked blond over to his side away from her body. He eventually ended up laying on his back with her nuzzled up against his chest, one arm wrapped firmly, yet tenderly around her waist while the other stroked over her dark tresses, his gloved fingers combing through those silky, almost black strands ever so slightly. She was doing something similar with him. Her lips only inches from his as she breathed in his scent, tasting him. One hand tangled within his blonde mass of spikes, while the other brushed affectionately against the side of his face in a soothing motion.

Cloud sighed contently against her lips in response to her caress, leaning into her touch in an attempt to savour it. Tifa happily complied to his unspoken wish, and continued to caress his face just as affectionately, planting another soft, lingering kiss on his barely parted lips. The warm satisfied sound he made then made a shiver run down her spine in pure delight, knowing that she was the only one to ever invoke such sounds from him. Such...warmth.

"I love you...Tifa" He murmured, his voice barely above a whisper as she felt his breath fan against her lips. "...Love you."

"I know, Cloud." Tifa smiled warmly at him when he opened his ocean blue eyes to look at her. The love, the affection. The warmth they emitted caused a strange, yet golden feeling to spread through her lithe frame from a special place in her chest. "I always have..." She finished, gently cupping his cheek with a hand before she moved to lay beside him.

She really didn't need to hear him say that he loved her. She already knew. Always had, but still there was something special with hearing it flow from his lips. Like some sort of commitment she had always wanted to hear, but never got a chance to until a few months back. When Cloud finally had managed to free himself from the guilt he had carried for so long, or at least he learned to shoulder them better. It all warmed her heart to think about how far he had come. How proud she was of him. How grown he had become in just those few months. No longer lingered the fear that he would leave them again. At least not without telling them first, and if it come to that he would be gone for a while due to his deliveries, he would always let them know that he would come back. Something he had proved.

"Tifa?"

"Mm?"

"Thank you...for being here with me...I...really appreciate it."

Tifa blinked. She recognized that tone. That careful wording of his. Something bothered him.

"Cloud?" She addressed him worriedly as she sat up so she could look at him, but he didn't really meet her eyes there he kept his eyes locked to the starlit sky. A far seeing look lingered in them like if he was lost in an another time.

"Something is bothering you isn't it?...I'm here if you wish to talk about it." She continued undeterred, gently covering his hand with her own while she spoke, knowing that it could help him with getting things off his chest. He trusted her after all, and the fact that he didn't pull away just proved this. However he did look away from her, but that was a pretty normal behaviour coming from the blond. It didn't surprise Tifa the least, but she wondered what had gotten into him though. He who had laughed, smiled and been so... loving just a few moments ago?

Cloud remained silent for a while, but Tifa was patient, caringly stroking the back of his gloved hand with her thumb as she waited. She could barely glimpse Cloud's face through his golden spikes there he continued to look away from her. His chest rose and lowered at an regular rhythm so she knew he couldn't be too upset. Nor was he asleep either from what she could tell, since she could literally hear the wheels turning in his head.

He was thinking, contemplating again, and for this she would give him time to sort it out. She would be there as his silent support whenever needed. And right now, she felt that he needed it.

After another hesitant moment shared between the two, he sighed. He sighed again, weary and contemplative and he once more locked eyes with the sky. "I...was thinking of the past. Of Nibelheim. Of everything that have happened up to now." He swallowed a bit nervously before he tilted his head so he could look at Tifa. "It's sad isn't it? That the stars...reminds us of the past?" His eyes had a strange wetness to them as he slowly let his gaze drift back to the very same sky. The tears hidden in those secretive orbs didn't fall, but Tifa could still see them. The ghosts of that past, and as if that alone explained everything she squeezed his hand a little tighter and leaned in a little closer. She allowed him to speak. She already knew where this conversation was going.

His brows drew together, as if he was suddenly annoyed. Then, "I'm stupid for thinking like that now aren't I? Now that I have you, Denzel, Marlene. Everyone...I guess I shouldn't think about it..."

Tifa sighed, although still smiling knowingly at the contemplative blond. As I thought, he's over thinking things again. Things out of his control and why does that not surprise me?

She was about to answer him when he suddenly sat up, pulling away from her touch as well as looking away from her and all Tifa could think was 'what?' before she heard his voice again. Soft spoken like always, but carrying a certain tinge of disappointment to it. Was he...embarrassed over himself?

"Just forget that I asked...It's not important."

Not important, Tifa repeated in her head. "But Cloud, it's-"

"It's okay." He swiftly cut her off and for a moment Tifa could only look into those mesmerizing blue orbs as they presented themselves, but something felt amiss. Despite his words he wasn't okay.

His eyes revealed it all.

"Cloud, it's okay to ask so stop doubting yourself okay? I understand. I will always understand." She said reassuringly and wrapped her hands around his left arm, holding him close. "Besides," She added, her eyes lingering on the same veil of tiny diamonds. "I too sometimes feel saddened when I look at the stars. Since they reminds me of so much horrible things that happened in the past. Of loss. The feeling of...loosing a father..." She caught herself before the memory could gain too much ground and she felt determined again, and this time she directed her gaze back to Cloud who watched her intently, giving her his full attention and somehow it made her smile. A genuine smile.

"But then I think about you. Of what I have. Of Denzel, and Marlene. Everyone, and somehow it... lessens the pain. Makes it easier to bear until it's nearly forgotten... Just a weak trace in memory..." She closed her eyes for a moment, just enjoying the thoughts of what she had now. What she had always had.

"What I want to tell you Cloud, is that it's okay to be saddened by your past. Even if it is caused by something small and simple like stars, so don't be ashamed to tell me about it alright? You know me way too well for that." And this time Cloud smiled. Not so much with his mouth as with his eyes however, but a smile nevertheless, and it grew into something truly genuine when he slowly and carefully wrapped his arms around her and held her close. He rested his cheek atop her head as he let out a deep but relieved sigh and Tifa knew then that he was truly okay. That she had got her point through and that was further proved to her when she felt his breath gently stir some strands of her almost black hair, followed by a soft, low spoken, 'You're right...thank you.'

She had no idea over how long they sat like that, but she knew it had been for a while when she felt Cloud slowly start to sag against her. His breathing was soft and even and his arms had started to loosen their hold around her waist. Tifa laughed softly. He...didn't feel so comfortable he had started to fall asleep did he?

"Cloud?" She called dubiously, nudging him a little which almost immediately had him snap back into awareness. He pulled back just enough so he could look at her face, and Tifa found herself smiling sympathetically at the tired look he gave her. His eyes was slightly unfocused as he blinked, which in fact made him look even more tired.

Tifa gently traced her fingertips over his cheek. "Perhaps we should go back inside? You had pretty much to do today didn't you? But still you drag me all the way out here. Just so we can share a moment together." She watched him as he seemed to be almost mesmerized by her gentle touch. "Really, Cloud. It's more than I could ever ask for. Much more and-"

Her next words got caught straight of her lips as Cloud leaned in and locked them into an affectionate union with his own. His kiss both tender and gentle, carrying with it what he felt for her, but most importantly, that he understood. Understood what she had meant to tell him. That he was okay.

"Perhaps we should," he said when he finally pulled back, looking into her eyes as he searched them. "But I kind of like it out here...I don't mind." And so he held her close to his chest again, and Tifa could only giggle at his wording. In other words, he wanted to stay outside. Not that she complained. Not at all when a warm mid-summer's breeze brushed against her skin.

Perhaps they should just stay out for the night...

"Do you think the bar will be intact when we return tomorrow?" It was a rhetoric question and she didn't fail to hear the humour in Cloud's voice as he held her closer. His chest reverberated against her when he chuckled.

"I certainly hope so. Or I will have to learn Yuffie a thing or two about house care."

"House care?" Tifa retorted dubiously. "You who can't even do the laundry right?" She teased him and he knew it. Something he showed by rubbing a hand nervously over the back of his head.

He cleared his throat. "Right, but you still have to give me credit for making pretty good eggs."

"Your only staple food." Tifa continued to tease him, but there was no seriousness in her tone. In fact she kept smiling as she looked into his eyes, which mimicked her own playfulness.

"I'm sure Vincent will keep everything in control." She assured him, leaning further into his sturdy, warm presence in front her. "What do you think? We should do this a little more often. Just the two of us and the stars?"

Cloud seemed to think on it for a moment, staying quiet. Then he nodded. "I'm all up for it, but without the tickle fights."

Tifa giggled, knowing. "You didn't like them?"

"No, I suppose I didn't."

"Because you're ticklish."

"Am not."

"You are."

"Am not."

Tifa laughed and smacked him lightly on his arm. "You are, so stop denying it."

Cloud smirked at her. "I still don't like them."

Tifa shook her head at him but otherwise stayed quiet as she rested her temple against his collarbone, feeling him rest his head atop hers again just a moment afterwards. Mutual silence engulfing the two as they just sat there, enjoying each others presence.

A silence soon to be slightly interrupted when Cloud's soft, steady breathing filled Tifa's ears again, but this time she didn't wake him. She didn't have the heart to, nor the resolve as she held him up when he gradually started to go limp against her. His arms slowly came to rest by her thighs when he finally succumbed to sleep.

She continued to hold him like that, one hand tenderly running up and down his back in soothing motions while the other were wrapped around his waist. It was first when she was sure he were deeply asleep she decided to lower him down. She placed one of her hands at the back of his head, gently cupping it as she moved herself a little to the side, easing him down until his head was safely cushioned on her lap.

He didn't stir, and Tifa took a moment of just admiring his peaceful sleeping face, of how relaxed he looked before she gently touched his cheek with her hand, rubbing it gently with her thumb.

"Thank you, Cloud... For everything you have ever done for me." A warm smile spread across her lips as he unconsciously leant into her touch, then stilled. "...Sleep well."

She on the other hand wasn't tired and even when that should have bothered her, since Cloud usually were the one to go last to bed, she didn't. Not when she felt this tranquil with her lover fast asleep on her lap. Not at all she thought when her auburn eyes caught glimpse of a falling star in the distance.

Her smile grew.

She would anticipate the next time they would be able to go out on a date like this.

Under the stars.