Hello there everyone~ It's been a while since I've posted anything, but this is for a prompt challenge! Hope you enjoy it.


Peanuts

What…?

Something was thumping. Throbbing…? She could feel her heartbeat pulsating in her head.

Where am…? It's dark…

She could tell before she even opened her eyes. It was cold; she could feel a draft against her legs. She shivered, her eyes fluttering open. She tried to move her hands but they were kept in place. It took her a moment to realize that it was metal – handcuffs? Her legs were in the same state of immobility. She squinted in the darkness as her eyes adjusted, but the sound of shuffling helped her more – Chains. She could not move, and she sure as hell couldn't use her magic to get out. Her weakness was metal.

Her captor knew her.

She could feel panic begin to rise in her throat. She could not form a single comprehensible thought a while. She blinked, closed her eyes, and took solid, deep breaths. She had to calm down; terror only threatened her chances of escaping.

She listened. She breathed. Her nose twitched.

She heard it. Someone was there. Something squeaked – a door opening. She sat still, breathing. Listening.

"Tifa."

Her breath hitched in her throat. All her mental preparation went out the window for a split second as she recognized the voice that spoke her name. Called out to her. She closed her eyes again as she tried to calm her nerves, though it would be of little use. He would know. He always did.

There was a smell, however. It made her sneeze.

She couldn't see him anyway, eyes closed or not. He stood behind her, a candle in hand, watching her silently. He set the candle down on the table next to the door, but did not move beyond that. How long had it been? Three years? They cast me out like an animal. He snarled. She shivered and he knew she hadn't meant to.

"Why?"

He blinked. Had he said that? Or she? He knew they were both thinking it, but for different reasons. Or maybe they were similar.

He set the bowl in his other hand down on the table, next to the candle, and took a few steps forward. He needed to do this. To prove a point. To send a message.

"How have you been Tifa? How is Avalanche?"

"Cloud, why—"

"I do not think you are in the position to ask me questions. Now, how is Avalanche." It was not an inquiry.

She sighed, gathering her thoughts. "Avalanche isn't the same without you," she said quietly, but firmly. She strained to turn around and look at him, but he was directly behind her. She could barely catch his figure.

He was not satisfied by her answer in the least. "Of course not," he snorted.

"Cloud, I did not know—"

"I did not even know!"

She flinched slightly at his sudden outrage. What has he been doing for all this time?

"You would think that I would know what I am… That I would have known before all of this happened. After they cast me out I wandered for a year and a half… I had almost nothing."

Tifa shook her head. "I'm sorry. I really am, but Cloud, you nearly killed Barrett."

"Maybe I should have."

"You don't mean that. No one knew you had that much power, not even you. They were afraid you could be a liability. You did not have full control."

Cloud smiled. A laugh escaped his lips, before bubbling into a cackle. "No… they were not afraid of me losing control. They were afraid of me gaining it."

Tifa still could not see him, but she knew the smell she had noticed before. Peanuts. She sneezed again. "Cloud…" No. Unless… "Peanuts, why?"

"They took everything from me. Cast me out and made me a warlock, a wizard without a proper guild to call my home. Of course, I was always doomed was I not? Who would have thought that I was a demon too?"

He was still going. Her nose started running. She sniffed. Her allergy to peanuts was heightened by her powers, an unfortunate side effect. She was extremely sensitive to their very existence.

Tifa sneezed again. Cloud chuckled.

"Peanuts because they are a bigger weakness to you than metal. Some might even say a deadly one." He picked the bowl up, making his way around to face her. "I am sure if I had not tied you up that way, you would have blown this little house apart by now. Luckily, I know you better than most."

She bit her lip, panic settling into her mind again. "You cannot do this." He came into her line of view finally, and the smell became stronger. The bowl. Her eyes began to water. "Cloud, think about this!"

"I've been thinking about this for a year!" He got on his knees in front of her, placing the bowl next to her feet. Her eyes… he had not seen them in so long. The last time he had looked into them… No. Don't. "You are their greatest mage Tifa. Or at least their most valuable. Maybe they can finally feel the pain I have for so long."

She closed her eyes. They were stinging. From the peanuts, from something else, she could not tell. She did not know. "Do you not think that we have been suffering too? Sure there might have been some who wanted you gone…" She opened her eyes and looked straight into his. "But some of us miss you. Yuffie misses you. Vincent, though he will not say it. Even Barrett and Cid. They did not want you gone…"

"And what about you Tifa? What did you want?"

She looked away from him. She wanted to spit, though not out of disgust. Her nose itched. She opened her mouth to answer but sneezed instead.

Cloud suddenly stood up, kicking the bowl back and away. She felt slightly better with the peanuts not so close to her.

He left her sight, and she said nothing. She was not sure of what she should say. Tifa felt angry – with him or with herself she was not sure. They had been friends, such good friends, before he was cast out. Why was he doing this to her? And how did she let herself fall into this situation?

God I must seem so weak. Damn allergies…

She could barely feel the tears falling from her face, though her eyes felt better because of it.

Cloud wiped his face and leaned against the table behind her. Tifa was not delicate, that he knew for sure. On the floor next to her the nuts were scattered and askew. But had he really meant to use them…?

Yes. I had.

He felt ashamed. How could he do this to her, the one who had always been there for him, even before anyone knew what he was? Within the guild he had always felt like something of an outcast before it was official, yet she had always made him feel… wanted. Her and a few of the others. He hung his head.

"Cloud… I know you are angry. I do. I don't understand exactly how you feel but I understand why you feel that way. I do not know what I would do if the guild abandoned me either."

He heard her sniffle. She did not deserve this. She had never done anything to him. But…

"Why didn't you defend me? When I stood there and made a fool of myself, yelling at the guild leaders, why did you not help me?"

Tifa sighed. "They forbade me from speaking. They even cast a spell on me so that I couldn't. I told them if they made you leave then so would I." She shook her head violently. "It's not like you had changed just because we all found out that you were a demon. I just… you had done nothing wrong. And you don't have to do this just because it's 'who you are.' I know that's bull. You are not like this Cloud. Please."

He stared at the back of her head. She… what? Tifa had actually gone to his defense?

"I did not want this to happen. I tried to stop it. I could not see what was wrong with you…"

"They… forbade you…?"

She only nodded in response.

When had she not defended him? I'm so stupid!

He lifted a hand. The chains rattled before falling away from her wrists and ankles. She slowly brought her hands together in front of her, the blood slowly coming back into circulation, but made no other movements.

Tifa was in some shock. She expected him to let her go but not so soon. She took a deep breath before getting up, being careful not to touch the scattered peanuts on the floor. She looked at him then, and he was turned away from her. It was like the day he'd been cast out, the hurt, the pain that was so unbearable for her to watch and look upon again.

She took slow steps toward him before gently grabbing his hand. "I am sorry."

He hid his face in his other hand. "You have nothing to be sorry for," he mumbled.

"I should have left them. I could join you and we can start a guild of our own. And we can invite our friends…"

He shook his head, smiling down at her sadly. "No. Stay with them. You are good at helping people Tifa. And protecting them."

She stared at him desperately. She did not want him to be alone.

"I am not alone," he whispered. "I'm sorry for what I've done. Please… I am so sorry." He looked away from her again.

Tifa blinked. She bit her lip before wrapping her arms around his neck tightly. She did not know what to say.

He hugged her back. He could not say anything either. He just did not want to have to let her go again.


Purple Skies should be next...
And who knows, this may develop into something further~