There was a reason Cloud wasn't terribly impulsive in personal desires. Mostly because those impulses led to terrible things. He and Tifa had talked about a time beyond Meteor; his words had started soft and hesitating, like future tense belonged to a completely different language, but she was so supportive of the idea that he could have a future and met his fledgling wishes halfway, making them seem so much more real and bright.
She had been poised so easily against his shoulder. He had wanted, then, to kiss her soft skin, so pale under the starlight (and the Highwind's docking lights) to see what future that might bring.
She'd bent over to fidget with her boot lace at the same time he'd leaned to kiss her cheek, so instead he'd only skimmed over a bit of her ear and a lot of hair. Not that it wasn't nice hair, but it was far from what he'd been aiming for, especially for a first kiss.
They were both frozen, and then finally indignation at the ruined moment (he'd spent how many years thinking about this?) bubbled up in his chest enough for Cloud to quietly, huffily burst out, "Tifa."
She was still frozen over her boot, her face turning red enough to shame tomatoes even against the dark, and indignation fizzled out like stale dishwater to be replaced by nagging guilt. Maybe she'd dodged him on purpose, hadn't he thought about that? He'd been thinking of growing love, but his words had been a lot more careful than that. She'd probably thought... she'd probably... oh, hell, he'd probably just screwed up team dynamics on the day it meant life or death for the entire Planet. Of course he would. (His head really needed to shut up with the self-deprecation. Think of what Aerith would say-no, if she hadn't been mad he'd just possibly screwed things up for everyone, she'd be giggling at him for being so utterly hopeless; even Cloud couldn't fool himself about her being a perfectly radiant angel of help and guidance from beyond for this. He rubbed his face and asked her to cut it out; the imaginary giggles weren't helping right now.)
"Um... Cloud," Tifa said, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear in embarrassment. He'd kissed that strand. He'd kissed it, even if he hadn't meant to. Now it was getting tucked away.
...He could claim temporary insanity. It wasn't exactly unbelievable for him. He probably still qualified. Should he claim temporary insanity?
"Did you just...were you trying to..."
Another bubble of indignation in his chest, this time mixed with a bit of exasperation. It had to be perfectly clear what he'd been doing (alright, trying to do; he hadn't exactly succeeded), and he twisted a bit from his seat on the rock to face Tifa more, using one hand to prompt her to turn a bit more toward him as well. ...He had no idea what that look on her face meant: like a smile but...pained? Twisted up? But it looked like it might have been a smile, underneath all the fluster.
...Team dynamics were already messed up. He might as well make himself clear.
"Tifa... I..." And god, he still couldn't find the right words; 'love' seemed so cloying, and anything else didn't really cut it.
Words aren't the only way, right? That must count for something.
"Just...punch me if I'm wrong, will you?"
And he was glad he was moving too close to her face to see the whole of it properly, because he could already see her expression turning to bewilderment before he kissed her on the cheek, then again in a slightly different place, then again, because he doubted he could do any sort of sensual long kiss, slow and burning or whatever it was supposed to be (burning always sounded like it should be bad), but he could show he knew perfectly well where he wanted his lips and what they wanted to be doing: showering kisses on Tifa Lockhart.
The other reason he'd never have been able to do a smoldering slow kiss was because his insides felt like they'd had ice dumped in; any second she would get rightfully annoyed at his arrogance and punch him. And then he'd have to apologize, and she'd was so very forgiving that it would probably be okay, except for him not being able to believe he could have made such a stupid mistake...
The expectation of a broken nose was now winning out over fleeting bravado, and he started to pull away. Her hands grabbed both his wrists to hold him in place, and she stared at his face like he was bonkers, making the 'temporary insanity' excuse flash in his head again.
"You thought I'd punch you?" she asked.
Oh. That really was a smile on her face now. He sputtered. "I don't know-I'm bad at this..."
"You are," she said, in a wondering tone that almost made it sound like she meant the opposite. Then she tugged on his wrists and pulled him back in, and showed him what exactly wasn't so bad about a slow and burning kiss.
"You didn't see that first time, did you...?" Tifa was turning red again, her face nearly entirely hidden behind her gloved hands.
Barret's booming laughter was answer enough, and Cloud felt a prickle of annoyance as Tifa turned away from them completely. "I could still toss you over the railing," he told the bigger man blandly.
"Sure ya could, you got better aim with your arm than your kisser-!"
Oh, great; Cid was ganging up on him too. Cloud sighed as both men erupted into hysterics; even Red was chuffing out his own peculiar laugh. He was never going to hear the end of last night, since everyone had apparently been watching like a busybody.
This was about normal for team dynamics.