A/N: I was inspired to write this seasonal one-shot by the following line from a story called "Plans" by Raven's Wing. She writes for Tangled mostly, and I adore her style and the general sexiness she manages to create. So whoever you are, even if you haven't the foggiest idea what FFVII is, this is for you.
Also, C Nicole you sexy lady, this is for you, too. (I want chapter 8, and you know of what I speak!) Love x
Prompt: She knows how to make him laugh and when he needs her to be quiet and just the right way to ask to get him to do anything she wants. She knows him and she trusts him, and that is scarier than anything he can imagine.
He comes here often, by his standards at least. Tifa would tease him that he must have a crush on one of the barmaids, a reason the place stayed so busy in the first place. Then she would laugh at his scandalised expression and carry on wiping tables or collecting glasses or shaking up drinks, completely unaware of how much she captivates him.
She has been living sans Cloud, as she puts it, for over two years now. At first, his visits were a reassurance to her that she was not alone, and he was pleased to know that his presence offered her some solace. Who would have thought anything from him could have been so? Her staff were intimidated by him at first, yet Tifa's trust in him seemed to be the only verification of sincerity they needed.
Now, though, he comes to her bar for a reprieve, an escape; for the comfortable buzz of background noise that allows him to sink into his thoughts. There is an odd calm to be found in watching Tifa work. In spite of knowing her for several years now, in the last year they had both gotten to really know each other. She came to confide in him, and found that he was an amiable drinking partner, listening and offering sound advice in equal measure.
Eventually, she came to understand him, something which still eluded the others members of their group. She knew how to make him laugh, or rather, give his version of a laugh; a sharp exhale through his nose and a tremor in his shoulders. She knew when he wanted quiet and space. She came to know him, and she trusted him completely.
To him, that was scarier than anything he could imagine.
Death used to be a risk he took with every contract, every mission. There are a million ways to die, and it seemed like he was always skirting around one or another. This is the fear he is used to. This is the fear he understands. He knows this fear. He can use this fear.
That is until she came along and ruined him.
He was once a patchwork of metal and leather, blood red eyes and matching tattered fabric, masked by a glare and armed with a triple-barrelled shotgun. He didn't need to give anyone a reason to fear him; he was reason enough.
But her… She danced around it all, made a mockery of his glares and his all-out stoicism until he himself could no longer keep a straight face. She would go to the extremes of ridiculousness, and she completely and utterly enchants him.
He recalled fondly, if he allowed himself, one time when they have been drinking in her bar with all the other members of Avalanche, minus Cloud of course. She had wound up in his lap wearing Cid's hat, arm wrapped around his shoulders and her face buried in his neck, giggling at some private joke they alone shared. He even allowed himself to enjoy the closeness, for a little while.
He is no fool, though. He knows that even with simple black button-downs and jeans, he is far too tainted and twisted for her to even consider. She prods his shell and pokes his boundaries because that is what she does. That is Tifa. Sometimes, when he goes home and catches her scent on his jacket, he aches because she will never know how much his mind spins if he can smell perfume and body heat; it is the nearest thing to smelling her skin, to pressing his face into her neck and breathing her in and…
He runs a hand over his face slowly, his hair falling into his eyes. He shakes the strands back into place. She can never know. Sometimes if he gets ahead of himself he will be brought crashing down to reality by the thought of her face if she knew. The shame and the fear crush his chest and force him to swallow down a hard lump in his throat.
She could never know.
"Long day?" She is suddenly at his side, by the table in the corner where he always sits. Her long chocolate hair is hastily wound into a bun at the base of her neck, loose strands here and there sticking out with static. Her white apron is splodged with drink, though her pocket jingles with tips.
"Hm. Busy night?" He casts a glance around the bar, noting that the tables were all full; not an unusual occurrence, certainly, though the female to male ratio was tipped towards the former tonight.
"Nothing out of the ordinary for this time of year," She winks, though her face shifted to incredulity at his nonplussed expression. "Don't tell me you've forgotten?"
"I am at a loss, it seems." He gives an exasperated sigh, draining his glass of whiskey. She was baiting him, and as always, he would bite.
"Vincent, it's February fourteenth—Val-ent-ine's day…?" She enunciates the word as though it is both new and apparently obvious, trying to embarrass him. Of course, she wouldn't be the first.
"Ah. As usual I have been caught unawares."
"You are unbelievable. Some girls are going to be disappointed here tonight. You've become a little bit of a favourite in here, especially since you got rid of some of this hair of yours." She reached out to affectionately pluck at the strands of hair that always fell into his eyes, drawing on her exclusive ability to make him feel embarrassed. She knows she is good at doing so, and her eyes sparkle and her cheeks dimple and he is starting to get ahead of himself again-
"I'll get you something else to drink," She gives his shoulder an affectionate squeeze. "And seeing as I am probably the only girl in the world without a date tonight, you get the pleasure of my company after I've kicked out all these lovebirds." She rolls her eyes as she strides away with his empty glass pinched loosely in her fingers, leaving him smiling gently to himself.
She could never know.
She does not stop to chat tonight as she might have done were the night quieter. Indeed, the flow of customers was steady and unrelenting, keeping her and her staff working at full pelt for much of the evening. She told him once that she preferred it that way, and indeed she is in her element, mixing up drinks and loading up trays for her waitresses to distribute. She never missed a beat, tossing bottles and glasses, shaking up spirits over ice- he even caught her juggling with some limes at one point. For a while, it was one of the only escapes she had; throwing herself into her work.
When she and Cloud separated it was with more of a fizz than a bang, as she put it; much how it hard started to begin with, in fact. It all just sorted of happened, leaving her feeling deflated and a little lost. The funny thing is, as much as Vincent resented him for reasons too complex to explain, he would have given anything to be him, the oblivious, spiky-headed moron. He might have been Soldier, he might have been addled by mako more so than he, but Cloud was near to the mundanely normal, compared with him.
And to be near her, to have her heart, to know what it was like to lie awake beside her at night, listening to her breathe and be within a hand's reach of her…
He would have given everything to be him.
Thankfully she didn't talk about Cloud very often, or at least not expressly. He hadn't exactly been reticent in making his opinion of the man known to her in the beginning, so a silent and mutual agreement had been reached that Cloud, now along with Lucrecia, was a subject to be avoided; left on the shelf to gather dust once and for all.
Now, two years later, she had grown into herself without him. That leads them to now, where Tifa was working in her bar on Valentine's day; a foolish marketing ploy that meant couples who had been together for years made a big deal out of buying red and pink objects for each other, and establishments could justify charging double for dining and drinking.
He could almost picture her laughing at his cynicism.
Though he had to wonder… She must have had offers for dates. Plenty of men came to her bar because of her, it was certainly no secret, and if any of them got out of line Tifa was well able to deal with them herself. That didn't stop his knuckles from whitening at their audacity. They were of course entitled to try; they were only human, and they couldn't understand how furious and envious he felt that they were in a position to take her for granted.
She was light and water and the air he needed to breathe, and they didn't see anything behind the beautiful face, the tumbling chocolate hair and those curves…
He placed his inter laced hands behind his neck, stretching his legs out underneath the table. He needed to refocus, before he was alone with her. Otherwise he would risk damaging the careful relationship he so desperately and selfishly guarded. He drained his glass once more, noting that this time she had left the bottle on the table for him. Smirking, he reached for it, turning the glass bottle in his hands. The candle light from the lone jar on his table shot through the amber liquid, and only served to remind him of honey irises…
He needed to refocus.
She shoos the last of the customers out of the front door then closes it with her body weight, huffing a sigh that sends loose strands of hair whirling out of her face. Soft amber eyes find his across the room and she grins weakly, shoulders sagging in relief that the night was over. The door locked and the blinds down, she bustled around some more, shutting off unnecessary lighting, lowering the sound system to a more tolerable level. His head rests against the back of the booth, listening to her moving behind the bar.
"Do you need a hand?" He is loathe to move, though he would if she needed him. He would do anything she asked of him.
"No," She calls back. He placed her behind the bar. "Want a drink?"
"I've near enough finished this whisky." He gives a dry chuckle, trailing fingers across his forehead.
"Taking liberties are we?" She chides him over the sound of liquid and ice being shaken vigorously.
"You know I am happy to pay for my drinks," He replied softly, and he can almost see her smile in his mind.
"And remove the reason you to keep visiting? Never!"
It is his turn to smile. As if he needed a reason; she could sell her whiskey for ten times the price, and he would pay it, if only to keep seeing her smile when she spotted him enter the bar, to keep her laughing at his dry observations, to remain nearby in the off chance that she comes close enough to touch, and he won't let her go…
Her footsteps cross the bar, practised step circumnavigating the spattering of tables and chairs. Then a weight joins him on his side of the booth, and he opens his eyes as her hip bumps his. "Budge over, Fatso." She teases, poking him in the ribs, inducing a reflexive jerk from him.
She'd already discovered he was ridiculously ticklish once, and after a rather desperate five minutes of trying to avoid her by clamping her twitching fingers between his own and begging her with his eyes, she eventually agreed to stop. Which was just as well, because he wasn't sure how she would have reacted to other methods to make her stop, when she had him pinned down with her knees and her body was flush against him…
In the silence, he appraised her with a sweeping gaze. She is leaning back in her seat, long legs on show in the skirt she had chosen to wear tonight, feet firmly planted on the floor, fiddling with the stem of her glass.
"What is that?" He gives the rainbow-coloured concoction a suspicious look and she laughs at his apparent distaste, sitting up a little so that she can take a sip from the straw.
"Dunno, I made it up for Valentine's day. I seemed to sell plenty, too. It's Cherry syrup, passion fruit, lime soda, and a little hint of melon—that's the green bit—you want to try?" She giggles when he gives a firm shake of his head, chiding him for his closed-mindedness, plucking the row of gleaming cherries from her glass and bringing them to her lips.
She is unaware she has his full attention, fingers lost in her hair, gaze lazily appraising the room and the amount of cleaning up she still had to do. She removed one cherry from the skewer between her teeth delicately, and rolled it over her tongue, revelling in the flavours before devouring it.
Almost against his will his gaze travels from her eyes to her mouth, captivated by lips stained a delectable, glossy red from the syrup coating the cherries. He is fixated, knowing full well that he should look away now—but in doing so, knowing that he will expose himself one way or another.
She could never knowShe could never knowShe could never knowShe could never know
Sinfully she is completely oblivious to him for the moment, bringing her hand to her mouth in an attempt to clear herself of the offending syrup. She coats the pad of her index finger in the sticky pink fluid before darting her tongue out delicately and sucking the sweet substance free.
His throat feels dry, tongue swollen and clumsy in his mouth, the scent of the fruity drink making him thirsty. Unthinking, he reaches for water and drains a glass, setting it down a little too forcefully afterwards.
No good. He needs to taste it, now right now, and there is something about the candle-light, all the more apparent since she dimmed the electric lamps, and the music, again so clear now all her patrons had gone home; he cannot resist her anymore, and he'd be damned tomorrow if this all blew up in his face but he need to know now…
"Vincent, are you alright?" Her right elbow is resting on the table, her body turned towards him, head titled as she considered him with a delicately furrowed brow. He notes the strands of hair that have escaped her bun since he saw her last.
On impulse he leaned forward and in one smooth motion undoes the messy bun. Her hair falls free in tumbling messy waves, enveloping them both in the scent of her coconut shampoo, the strands catching in his fingers.
He needs to do it now while he is brave and foolish, lost in her and in the idea of her, basking in her scent and in her presence, otherwise he will never know.
In one moment he slides closer, one palm sliding into place firmly gripping the warm flesh beneath her shirt at her waist, the other brushing her jaw before coming to cup her neck at the juncture of her shoulder, thumb grazing her throat. The action tilts her head back slightly and now closer still he can appreciate how wide her pupils are, gentle frown gone to give way to her surprise. She exhales unsteadily, her gaze darting around his face, searching for answers, no doubt, as to where this had come from.
She could never know.
Her lips are gently parted, short sharp exhales sending him dizzy because he can smell that cherry syrup and he knows that he only needs to move inches closer to be able to taste it and to taste her…
Holding his breath in aching lungs, he leans in and captures her full bottom lip between his own. His tastebuds are abused by the flavours of cherry and lime, yet it is not enough. He sucks on her lip, drawing it out slowly as though intent on devouring her. He released it, his lungs screaming, and he exhales shakily and audibly against her cheek, eyes closed, nose brushing hers.
The moment seems to stretch, and he could die to simply know what she was thinking.
Then she makes this sound—a desperate whimper, a moan filled with so many questions and so much desire—and he decides that tonight she would know everything.
… all of the places his reluctant hands wanted to touch, caress and squeeze; all of the curses he was wont to utter in the heat of the moment; the way his tongue would feel in her ear, his teeth on her earlobe, her collarbone…
He wants to knock her off balance, to make her head spin and her breath stop because she does that to him.
"What was that for?" She whispered against him, breathless and dizzy. He plans to show her again, by way of explanation.
She is frozen, immobile, yet he is more than willing to help her in that department. His probing fingers hook beneath her thigh and in one breath she is kneeling over him, hitching her skirt just a little higher so she can move unrestricted, one knee either side of his thighs.
Arms pressed up against his chest, sticky fingers an impression on his jawline, her heated mouth finding his one more, velvet tongue darting out to test him, wanting to taste him. He lets her in, groaning against her, mind lost somewhere between that and the steady friction of her pelvis against him.
He needs her, and he needs all of her, as greedily as she is kissing him now.
Then she bites him; a pleasure tinged-pain at his lip.
Another shift and she is lying on her back across the seat. His hand glides beneath her shirt, mapping out the ridges and dips of ribs and the soft swell of her breasts, encased in lace and wire. She arches into him, hands skimming his arms, padding his shoulders, then sliding beneath his shirt.
She is a fragile weight beneath him, though she cannot know how the tiny movements she makes rub against him, turning his insides to liquid; couldn't possibly know how good it feels to hear her laboured breath so close to his ear. He is concentrating on her jawline, trailing kisses from the hollow beneath her ear to her throat, utilising tongue and teeth and lips to suck, bite, nip…
Her knee is chafing deliciously between his thighs, and her skin is so unbelievably soft, the restrictions of their clothing becoming a frustration, yet as his fingers wander up her skirt, inching their way along her thigh to find the edge of silk stockings, he suddenly can't go any further.
A kiss could perhaps be shrugged off, even one like this maybe, but if they go the whole way, it was sink or swim. He could have one night with her and satisfy his curiosities (temporarily), but risk alienating her the morning after. It was amazing what alcohol could make you think was possible.
"Tifa…" He whispers into her hair. Speaking aloud, he notes just how weak his voice sounds. It would take only one word from her and he would risk everything. "Tifa, stop." Don't stop, please don't stop…
She peers up at him, lips red and swollen, exposed and beautiful; a ripe fruit he wanting nothing more than to taste. But he couldn't risk that.
"Tifa, I… I can't do this."
She looks confused, hurt, and a little angry, hoisting herself up and moving backwards on her hands so she is upright again, leaning back against the wall. A barrier has been erected between them, and he regrets speaking at all. He needed to repair the damage: he needed her to know the truth. Then, if she still wanted him…
"You kissed me, Vincent." He knows that, knows how much of a damn hypocrite he looks from where she is standing.
He needed to explain himself, but he didn't have the words.
He stood, head spinning and his heart palpitating uncomfortably in his chest. This wasn't how it should have been. By now they would have been lost within one another, somewhere in that booth, not like this. Not like this. He needed air.
In that moment she must have thought he was going to walk away from her and out of her life, for she stumbled after him half way towards the door, clutching for his hand.
One look at her face crushed him completely. He was not Cloud. He would never hurt her like that. In all the expressions she had ever worn for him, this one he never wanted to see again.
He gathered her into his arms, stood in the middle of a battlefield of furniture and held her so tightly it was a lifetime guarantee that he would never let her go, if she only asked it of him. His lips were against her hair, his arms locked about her tiny frame, silently begging her to ask the one question he had been waiting to hear for longer than he cared to acknowledge.
"Vincent please don't go, don't leave me." She hiccoughed, her face turned into his neck. "It's Valentine's day." She adds as an afterthought, as though it might tip the scales in her favour.
His shoulders are shaking uncontrollably, and for the first time in years Tifa witnesses him laughing; not his usual derisive snort, but a full on belly-laugh, and despite the seriousness the situation had evoked, she was giggling too.
"I wasn't going anywhere, Tifa. I could never…"
"Vincent what does this mean?" She has sobered a little now, leaning back in his arms to search his face, as if he had all the answers.
"I… I don't know. I wish I knew, but… I can't do this with you thinking that it means nothing. It's so much more than that." She gives a slight nod, squeezing him tighter. The look he gives her silences her for the moment.
He takes everything in; the shadows of her face, in the hollow of her cheekbones and in the sockets of her eyes; Her skin, the war of light and shade that rages there, in the dancing flames of candles; the gentle swell of her mouth, still red and inflamed from his explorations. Sculpted collar bones, upturned throat, honey-coloured eyes.
He thought about everything he knew about her- her experimental music taste, her love of tea; if his work ever took him to Wutai or Cosmo, he would bring her back different tea. Nothing could replicate the joy that her smile brought him. How they shared books, just so that she could talk about it with someone.
She had somehow become his everything in the past two years, a substance that he was completely and utterly dependant on; his world. And he had become hers.
He cups her face tenderly in callused palms and pressed lips to her forehead, the tip of her nose, then after a pause, her fragile mouth. "I either take everything or leave everything. Right now I am halfway between."
So, his questions hangs, what's it going to be?
She tugs him closer still by his shirt collar, foreheads locked, forcing him to look into her eyes because there was nothing else in his field of vision. Not that there ever was, when she was around.
"Vincent, you stubborn, foolish idiot," Standing on tip-toe, their mouths are level, and she takes the opportunity while she has him confused to kiss him, open mouthed because she is smiling. "How long have you kept this gem quiet? I bet you were doing the whole 'I'm not good enough for her' macho-punishment thing weren't you?"
He raises a brow and says nothing. "You are priceless, you know?" A tell-tale tremor in her voice confirms what damp palms tell him. He kissed her burning cheeks, lips met with the salt of her still-drying tears.
"Come on," She mutters thickly, taking him roughly by the hand. "It looks like I'm not going to be the 'only girl on Valentine's Day without a date' anymore."
"Where are we going?" He allows himself to be lead to the front door, where she tosses him his coat, and throws on one of her own.
"Your place or mine; You decide."
They pass out into the night, walking closely together, arms entwined, as though fearing some unseen force could open up the distance they had crossed together. Yet as he lay in the dark beside her that night, only a palm's reach away, listening to her breathing… he knew nothing ever would.
Firstly, Happy Valentine's day everyone!
Secondly, massive thank you to Raven's Wing- no doubt you will have spotted the parts you so kindly agreed to let me borrow. It's obviously a massive compliment.
I was indecisive for a time, after I'd written most of the body of this story—did I want it to finish in sex, or understanding. I hope I've managed to do both, whilst leaving in the right amount of steaminess. What I usually do is overcomplicate my fics with too much dialogue, which only works for the longer multi-chapter ones. I wanted more to be said in body language than in actual words. Actions and all that.
I will write for prompts, I've decided. Saw someone do it once, and it was quite a fun experiment. So, prompt me, and You will get a short story/chapter dedicated to you. Don't mind experimenting with other pairings at your suggestion.