It was too quiet in the bar they called home. Tifa could hear the kids toss in their beds down the hall as they slept. She averted her eyes from the old window, watching for any stars to be seen. Stars were always special to her. When everything felt hopeless, the stars were there. It was as if the little lights were gleams of hope, prodding her onward.
She sighed softly as her gaze hovered over to the clock on the nightstand.
'Two AM,' Tifa thought, shaking her head, 'How am I even awake right now?'
By some high power, Tifa had managed to keep her eyes open and her body functioning for near twenty-seven hours. Between running the bar and the kids, she barely had time to breathe.
Tifa rubbed her eyes with a yawn, walking over to her bed and sitting on the edge of the mattress. She was much too tired to get changed into suitable sleeping clothes. She lied back on the sheets, her body seeping into the worn bed. After several moments of silence ticked away, the sounds of footsteps grew louder as they made their way up the stairs. Tifa sat up and looked at her door curiously as it hung ajar.
Nobody could've broken in, she would hear the struggle against the thick wooden door and its clunky locks. The footsteps were in no hurry nor did they try to conceal themselves.
She grew curious.
Not a break in. But, only she and two others had keys to 7th Heaven. Denzel was asleep in his room. That only left one suspect.
Tifa shook her head. 'I'm just imagining things,' She thought with a deep breath. Tifa rubbed her sinuses in a circular motion as she tried to relieve her headache. 'I'm just tired, that's all,' Tifa thought to herself.
The footsteps stopped and her door opened softly.
She looked over to the door and shot to her aching feet, eyes staring in disbelief at the man in the doorway. "Cloud..." Tifa heard herself whisper as she gazed at the blonde.
The clearly exhausted and weathered man only gave a small smile.
His clothes were in shambles, his skin and hair blanketed with dirt and blood, his pale face littered with scars and contusions. The light stubble that grew from his battered flesh was stained with grime. Cloud looked like he'd just walked out of hell itself.
His voice was the same, yet somehow broken when he spoke. "I'm home," He said just above a whisper.
Immediately, Tifa approached him carefully, afraid he was only a hallucination. She gently and slowly pressed her hand to his chest. She could feel his heart beat beneath her palm as she looked up into those blue, speckled eyes. Tears quickly gathered in her eyes as she held her other hand to his grizzled cheek. She buried her face in his chest as salty tears rolled down her cheeks. "We...we missed you so...much…" Tifa wept against the tattered wool of his shirt, "We were so worried….I...I was so scared…"
He rubbed her back soothingly, sticking his face into her hair, "Tifa...I'm sorry…"
She shook her head against him, pulling him closer, "Just...stay here…"
Cloud wrapped his arms around waist and held her firmly, exhaling into the crook of her neck.
After a long moment of silence, Tifa lifted her head, gazing into his green speckled pools of blue. She bit her lower lip, looking away and resting against him again. "I'm so glad you're alive…"
He tightened his hold, huffing softly against her head.
Tifa clenched her jaw and shut her eyes, "I need to tell you something…"
"What is it?" He asked contently against her forehead.
She waited a while before speaking quietly, "Cloud, I-"
A loud cry sounded from down the hall, startling Tifa and making her grow tense.
"Zack," She whispered to herself, pulling away from Cloud's embrace.
"Zack?" He inquired, growing concerned and confused. Cloud held her arms in an attempt to stop her from leaving.
She slipped from his fingers and trotted out of the room towards the cries.
Cloud stood in confusion, frozen in his place as he wracked his brain for answers. He knotted his brow, heading towards the crying to the room at the end of the hall beside his own. He stopped, staring at the door cautiously as he gently pushed the door open.
The room was dark, except for the stream of moonlight that lit the middle of the room to the doorway. The shadow of a rocking chair could be seen in the corner of the small room from the doorway along with a dresser and a small barred piece of furniture to the left.
Cloud gazed at what he saw, frozen in time.
In Tifa's arms rested a baby with little blonde tufts of hair on his head. The baby began to calm as she bounced him rhythmically, cooing to him softly. Almost instantly, the boy drifted back to sleep against her. Tifa slowly looked to the man in the doorway. A small smile resting on her lips as she looked at him, continuing to bounce the child softly.
Cloud stood completely still, his eyes glued to them.
She only shook her head at the awestruck man, the smile on her face only growing as she looked back down to the baby.
He continued to watch them until his demeanor melted away, letting his body function once more. Cloud slowly stepped into the room, each bringing him closer to the woman and child.
Tifa smiled at his approach, gesturing for him to come closer with her body language.
He carefully stopped before them, eyeing the small child in her arms.
She whispered softly to him as she looked into his speckled eyes, "I've been meaning to tell you for a long time."
Cloud continued to look at the baby.
Tifa smirked, turning the child's face to him.
He kept his eyes on the baby's small face.
She lifted the bundle to him, his hands unconsciously reaching out and holding the bundle carefully. Cloud gazed at the sleeping boy, afraid to touch the fragile astonishment.
"You're a father," Tifa whispered into his ear.
He said nothing. Cloud continued to watch the baby in awe. His little breaths and features amazing him. Everything about him was perfect. Ten little fingers. Ten little toes. Two little eyes. A soft tiny nose. He was perfect.
"His name is Zack…" She spoke softly.
Cloud slowly looked to her, his eyes gleaming with unshed tears.
"He...was an important part of our lives…" Tifa continued, "...I thought it was right to honor him…"
"...Tifa…" He spoke quietly, "...how….how old is he…?"
She sighed before answering him, "Eight months."
Cloud stood in awe at the child, his gloved hand gently reaching for the boy's blonde tresses hanging in his face and caressing them out of the way. "He…" He began with a whisper.
"Looks just like you," Tifa finished for him.
The bewildered man only continued to gaze at the boy.
Tifa lifted her brown irises to his face, "How do you feel….?"
"I…" Cloud began with a quiet breath.
She looked at his eyes. They shun with something more than tears. She could see the love in his eyes. Tifa smiled softly.
"I'm sorry, Tifa..." He mumbled, "I didn't know…"
"It's not your fault," She whispered back to him, seeing the emotions swirl in his speckled blue eyes like whirlpools.
"I shouldn't have left…" Cloud mumbled softly, guilt marinating his words.
Tifa let out a weak breath, shaking her head as she closed her eyes, "It was your job…" She looked back to his mildly scythed face, his eyes still focused on the sleeping boy. "...what happened…?" Tifa dared to ask him, immediately seeing the pain it brought him. "You don't have to tell me now...but eventually…" She added.
The blonde man looked up from the child and his eyes locked with hers before he spoke, "I'm going to shower…"
"Alright…" She whispered, gently taking her son back into her arms. Her brown irises rested on the child as she caressed his little face, love in every breath of her being. Tifa glanced back to Cloud, finding that he had already left the room. She sighed, kissing the child's head and whispering softly into his blonde locks, "I love you…"
After having put her child down to sleep, Tifa returned to her room, hearing the pattering of water from the bathroom as she sat down on her bed. Not much long after, the squeak of the shower knob turning and the slide of the curtain echoed from the bathroom before Cloud emerged with a towel wrapped around his waist.
He ruffled his blonde spikes as he dried them with his hands and pulled out a pair of boxers and comfortable pants.
Tifa had pulled her eyes away for only a moment and found that he was already dressed and sitting down beside her on the mattress.
He rested his elbows on his knees and his eyes focused on his Interlocked fingers, droplets of water still hanging from his bangs as he absent-mindedly gazed.
She traced his form with her brown irises, taking in every detail of him with the lingering fear that if she closed her eyes he would disappear. Tifa slowly and carefully touched the back of his hand, easing into his presence and brushing his knuckle with her slender fingers. To a bit of her surprise, Cloud gentle took her hand in his and intertwined their fingers.
He sighed deeply, shutting his eyes as he rubbed against her skin with his thumb.
She waited patiently, as she always had with him. The silence between them wasn't uncomfortable, but almost reassuring that he was really here as he brushed against her skin. Tifa would always wait for him because she knew that was what he needed.
Cloud finally brought his speckled blue irises to her, drops falling down the sides of his face from his damp hair.
She knew that look. She always knew that look. Cloud Strife wasn't much for words, but Tifa could see everything he had to say in those eyes.
Tifa leaned her head into his shoulder and sighed. "You don't have to be sorry," She whispered to him.
Cloud stuck his nose into her hair, taking a deep drawl of her scent in and sighing quietly.
Tiny droplets stuck to her cheek as she turned her face into him and rested her hand on his chest. Like a soothing drum, she contently listened to his heartbeat rhythm away.
His walls began to melt away and she could physically feel him relax as he sat up and sighed.
Tifa looked up to his eyes, seeing the faintest glimmer of a smile. She gave him a small, soft smile as if to reassure him that everything was okay.
Cloud's lips twitched a bit, pulling up into a half smirk before looking down to their intertwined fingers. He rubbed against her hand gently with his calloused fingers.
A soft exhale left her lips as she closed her eyes and listened to his heartbeat again.
Cloud gently pulled away from her hand and laid down on the bed before looking to her eyes.
She knew both of them needed sleep. It was calling her name as she looked to the space next to him in her bed. Tifa smiled softly as laid beside him, resting her head in his shoulder and placing her palm on his bare chest. He was music to her. His breaths, his heartbeat, all of it. It was a sweet symphony in her ears as she felt him here with her.
Cloud interlaced his fingers with hers, sighing contently into her hair as he shut his heavy-lidded eyes. The small ghost of a smile tainted his lips as his breaths deepened.
Tifa smiled, her eyes drifting shut as she nuzzled against his chest.
Only a few moments of content breaths filled the air before sleep took its claim upon the two as they happily laid in each other's arms once again.
Heyo! Thank you for reading! Let me know whatcha think and if you want to see more! Any questions or such, I reply swiftly. 'Til next time, PEACE! -