I don't usually write one-shots, but this fic idea hit me so hard a few days ago that I had to write it. It's definitely different from my usual writing style, but I hope you like it regardless

Enjoy!


Despite having never spoken before, Tifa fell in love with him every single day. Fell in love with how the sun haloed his blond hair and the sea air pulled at his linen clothes. How he never failed to wave at her while she was working her waitressing shift, how they shared a secret smile before he made his way to the docks and onto his old sailboat. How he continued trying to repair the boat, day after day after day, even though the mast had broken, the hull was scraped, and it never looked like it would never kiss the open ocean again.

"Oh, you didn't know?" Marle, her manager, had told her when she had asked about it. "The boat belonged to his best friend before he passed away." She paused, her weathered finger tapping against her lip. "Something about a storm?"

After that, Tifa would notice how the blond-haired man kept checking the horizon, his icy-blue gaze searching for clouds.


Tifa couldn't remember the last time the sky had been so clear. It was a perfect sort of day, with the sea birds crying to the wind and the clouds swept across the sky as if they had been painted on. Waves lapped at the oysters hugging the dock's thick wooden columns, and she could taste the salty air as she opened the gate and slowly made her way down the dock's length. A cool breeze pulled at her summer dress. The ocean burbled beneath the weathered wood she walked across.

As she had predicted, Cloud was already on his small sailboat, affectionally re-named The Reunion. All of the scuffs against its paint had been smoothed, all of its broken pieces mended, and he had just finished polishing its dark-wood deck the day before. Now he was hauling a cooler aboard, so focused in his task that he didn't even notice her approach.

"Good morning, Cloud," Tifa called, as not to startle him.

Cloud was startled anyway, and his head snapped up in alarm before his lips tugged into a smile. "Morning," he greeted. His sleeves were rolled up and exposed his small tattoo of feather, and his normally pale skin was already looking a little pink from sunshine. "You look nice."

"Well, of course!" The dock swayed beneath her feet, a gentle rocking that had her bending her knees for balance. "Today's the big day, after all."

Cloud's smile broadened – she didn't think she had ever seen him so happy. "Today's the big day," he agreed.

"Good day for sailing?"

Cloud shoved the cooler beneath the bench before lifting his gaze to the horizon. It was a smooth line today, a simple divide between the pale sky above and the rich blues of the sea below. There wasn't a cloud visible against the sea, and when he turned back to her, the salty breeze mussing his already messy hair, he was grinning.

"Definitely."


It had been raining the first time they had spoken. The rain had been coming down in sheets that day and had been pounding against the restaurant's windows, the water rippling against the thick panes as it had snaked down to the water-logged earth below. Tifa had been content to listen to its steady drone, having been distracted with the cash register, when the door had suddenly been thrown open.

"Welcome to Seventh Heav-" she had automatically began, only for the words to die in her throat when she noticed who, exactly, had just walked in.

The blond-haired man.

The same blond-haired man who waved to her ever morning, who shared a secret smile with her, before making his way to his ruined boat.

"Sorry," he had immediately apologized. He hadn't moved away from the door, sparing the rest of the restaurant from getting dripped on. Tifa remembered how he had been soaked through; his white linen shirt had been plastered to his skin, his pants three shades darker as they clung to him, and he had been running an impatient hand through his hair, his fingers ripping out the tangles. "Sky suddenly opened up." That's what he had said, but his eyes had been a little wild, as if something more than the sudden storm had forced him inside. "Um, mind if I -"

"Not at all!" Tifa had quickly said. It had been a slow day anyway; besides the two of them, Marle, and her coworker Jessie, the rest of the restaurant had been empty. "Let me get you a towel."

"Are you sure? I don't mean to be a bother, I just..."

"You're not a bother." Tifa had pulled the softest towel out of the storage closet before handing it to him, and they had pretended not to notice that their fingers had brushed together. "Here – you need it more than we do."

The man's fingers had been tightly wrapped within the towel's plush fabric. "I'm Cloud," he had suddenly told her.

Tifa had smiled in reply. "Tifa," she had replied, and Cloud had stayed until the storm let up.


"Are you sure that your manager is okay with you taking the day off?" Cloud suddenly asked. He was now checking all of the lines, making sure that nothing was frayed despite being brand new, that there weren't any knots, that everything was perfect. Tifa had never known that such calloused hands could be so careful. So gentle. "I mean, this was pretty short notice..."

"Of course they're okay with it." Tifa placed a hand on his arm, and she could feel him lightly tense beneath her touch. "They understand."

Cloud slowly exhaled before turning to her, his smile faint. "Thank you."

Tifa grinned at him. "What are you thanking me for?"

"I don't know," he admitted, shrugging. "For coming."

"Of course I'd come, Cloud." Tifa's hand squeezed his arm, and she could see a faint blush kissing his high cheekbones. Starlight danced beneath her skin upon seeing it. "I wouldn't miss this for the world."

His blush deepened. "Well, thank you. I… appreciate it."

Once again, it struck her just how little he expected from the world. Like every small kindness was to be cherished, every little blessing was something to be clung to, every unexpected moment of joy was something worth remembering.

She wanted that, too.

"Let's see if The Reunion is finally seaworthy," she told him.

His grin turned positively boyish, and without another word, he untied off of the dock's cleat.

The ocean lapped the boat's hull as they cast off.


To Tifa, Cloud had become something like the sun. She hadn't been able to bear looking at him directly; the storm incident, and the soft smile he had given her when she had given him the towel, had still been too fresh in her mind. It had given her butterflies every time she thought about it. But his constant presence on the dock, even when he had been out of her line of sight, would warm something deep within her. The sound of his hammer against the ship's deck had calmed her. His small wave whenever he passed by the restaurant had her heart skipping. Sometimes, she had been so caught up in the moment that she'd almost forget to wave back.

"God, this is brutal to watch," Jessie had finally, and loudly, announced during their shared closing shift. The sea air had frizzed Jessie's brunette hair, and she had impatiently pulled it back into a messy bun as she continued, "Just talk to him already!"

"But he's busy!" Tifa had protested. "I mean, look at him! He's working so hard on his sailboat right now, and I don't want to distract him." With that she had turned away, back towards the window and to the docks… only to see his bright shock of blond hair, burnt gold by the setting sun, turned towards her.

She had blinked in surprise, suddenly realizing: He had been looking at her.

And apparently he had noticed that he had been caught, because he then quickly looked away and busied himself with staining the deck's wood, his movements rough and jerky.

Jessie had seen the entire exchange, and her lips had twitched into a smirk. "I don't think you'd be a distraction, love."

Marle had laughed from behind the counter.

Tifa had buried her face in her hands and groaned.


Tifa had never thought that she would consider a sailboat graceful.

Yet here they were, slipping in between the other moored boats as they made their way to the mouth of the harbor, every bit as graceful as a dancer weaving through a crowd. Tifa had perched herself on one of the cushions deep in the cockpit and watched the shoreline effortlessly slip by while Cloud had positioned himself by the boat's stern, steering the rudder, carefully guiding his ship towards open ocean.

"So?" Tifa glanced at him over her shoulder, the salty air playing with her hair. "How does she feel?"

"Good." Cloud's brow knotted as he eased left, giving a larger yacht a wide berth. "She's easy."

"I don't think any girl would like to be called easy," Tifa teased, only for another voice to interrupt their conversation.

"No way!" Someone on the yacht shouted their way, snagging their attention, and Tifa turned to see a larger man leaving over the yachts railing, his eyes round as he watched them pass by. "Cloud!" His face broke out in a grin. "Look at you, man!"

Cloud grinned in response. "Hey, Wedge!"

The man, Wedge, glanced over his shoulder. "Guys guys guys, it's Cloud! He's sailing! Biggs, take a look!"

"No way," came another voice – Biggs, Tifa assumed – before he joined Wedge. Biggs was slightly taller than Wedge, with short brown hair and eyes crinkled in a smile. Pressing his hands against the railing, he called, "Look at you, buddy. Finally took her out."

Cloud's expression softened. "Finally."

And, suddenly, Tifa wished that they were talking about her instead of the boat.

"We'll celebrate tonight!" shouted a third man, this one much larger than the other two. He lifted his prosthetic arm in a wave, and light glinted against its metal as he said, "Drinks on us!"

Cloud only laughed; laughed in a way he never laughed on the shore. "I'm holding you to that, Barret!"

The large man, Barret, laughed in reply. "Hell yes!"

Without warning, it occurred to Tifa that Cloud seemed more free here. More open, and she wanted to see more of that. She wanted to meet who this Cloud was, the Cloud who felt most at home on the open sea. There was color to his cheeks. A constant smile on his lips, like any moment he was going to break into laughter.

Cloud grinned, shifting the boat so that it straightened. "You're right; she's not easy," he said, effortlessly jumping back to their earlier conversation. He turned to her, and his blue eyes caught the sunlight in a sudden, breathless sort of way. "But I love her anyway."

Once again, Tifa wished that he was talking about her and not the boat, but she only smiled and said, "I'm sure you do."

Cloud's smile carried them through the mouth of the harbor and into the deep blue water beyond.


Tifa had seen her chance a few weeks later. One of the cooks had made an extra order of fish tacos, and not wanting it to go to waste, she had carefully packed it up in a to-go container and had made her way down to the docks during her lunch break. There had been a bite to the ocean breeze that day, a chill that had her rubbing her arms as she had opened the dock gate and had walked down the dock's weathered planks. Her heart had crawled up to her throat the moment she saw that familiar blond hair, wind-blown and bleached from the sun.

"Um..." She had cleared her throat as she approached, not wanted to startle him. "Um, hi, Cloud."

Cloud had stared at her as she approached, as if he hadn't been able to believe what he was seeing. "Tifa? Are you..." He sat upright, forgetting his tools for a moment. Grease had streaked his white shirt, and there were dark fingerprints on his cheeks, as if he had rubbed his face in exasperation. "Are you allowed to be here?"

"It's my lunch break," Tifa had said by way of explanation. It had been strange; even though this was technically their first conversation since the storm incident, she hadn't felt awkward. In fact, she had felt warm despite the ocean spray misting the air with every gentle gust. "Brought you something."

Cloud's brow had pinched at that, only to shoot upward in surprise when she had handed him the to-go container. "Our cooks made some extra by mistake," Tifa had said, "and I didn't want it to go to waste. Hope you like fish tacos."

"Oh, um..." Cloud's cheeks, also pink from exertion, had reddened slightly. "Thanks."

Back then, Tifa had known that that had been her cue to leave. That she should leave Cloud in peace to continue working on whatever he was working, and yet something had stopped her. Her feet had remained rooted to the ground and would not budge, and she had realized: She didn't want to leave. Not yet. She wanted to get to know him better.

"So how's the boat coming along?" she had asked after a pause.

Cloud had faintly relaxed at her question, and a small smile had dusted his lips as he had told her, "It's coming together. Slowly, but we're getting there."

"It looks great." Tifa had sat down on the deck, taking care not dirty her skirt or get any wood splinters in the dark fabric. "So what's it like? Sailing, I mean. I've never been."

Cloud had turned to her in surprise. "Never been?" he had repeated, incredulous. "But… But you work right over there!"

"Yeah, working," Tifa had laughed. "I've never had the time to go out. And besides, where would I even go?"

"You could go anywhere." Cloud had shifted his weight so he was tilted more towards her, and his calloused hand had splayed against the newly stained deck as he had continued, "Anywhere at all."

"Anywhere at all, huh?"

"That's right."

"Okay, well… I wanted to be an astronaut when I was little," Tifa had said, her tone teasing. "Think a sailboat could take me to the stars?"

Cloud had made a low sound in his throat, something that could have been a laugh but not quite. "Maybe not that far," he had admitted. "But have you ever seen the stars from the middle of the ocean?" She had not, and his gaze had grown wistful at her admission. "There's millions," he had told her. "Too many to count. So many that you can't even see the spaces between them."

She had smiled and said, "That sounds beautiful."

And he had turned to her, his expression unreadable, and had replied, "It is."


"I missed this," Cloud sighed. Gentle waves lapped against the side of the boat, their tips made of white foam before crashing back into the deep blue. A full breeze filled the boat's pearly sails and guided it forward, and the ship's sleek hull, thinner than some of the other boats, cut easily through the cresting water. A seagull cried out above them before gliding in front, its thin wings beating against the wind. Cloud sighed again. "I haven't done this since…"

His voice trailed off, as if he suddenly realized what he was saying.

"Since?" Tifa encouraged.

Cloud thickly swallowed. His gaze became distant. "I… I had a friend," he finally, haltingly began. His use of had was not lost on Tifa, and her chest squeezed in sympathy. "We used to go out all the time."

The boat belonged to his best friend before he passed away, Marle had once told her. Something about a storm?

Tifa followed his gaze – out to the horizon, where no clouds marred its thin line. "Looks like it's a clear day today," she said before glancing up to him. His expression was unreadable as he looked down to her, and his knuckles were white with strain as they gripped the wheel. But what caught Tifa's eye was how the pale sunlight danced in his blue eyes, staining their light blue shades of sea glass. She smiled at him. "I'm glad that you were able to sail again."

Cloud, after a heartbeat, returned her smile. Yet there was something a little bittersweet in his gaze, something a little sad to his grin, as he said, "Me too." He lifted his gaze to the open ocean stretching out before them, the wind pulling at his hair and clothes. "It's what he would want."

Tifa bit her lip. "But is it what you want?" she asked.

Cloud blinked, apparently caught off guard by the question. "What?"

"Is sailing something that you want?" she repeated.

He thought about it for a moment. Pursed his lips as he mulled it over. Then he blinked and said: "Yeah." Something had cleared in his expression, as if he was realizing it for the first time and was somewhat startled by it. "Yeah," he said again.

"Good." Tifa reached upward, until her fingertips could graze the back of his hand. She could feel every thin scar as she told him, "I'm happy for you."

His resulting expression melted something within her, and one of his hands let go of the wheel to briefly squeeze hers. "So..." He shifted his weight to his other foot, his other hand flexing against the wheel. "Where to?"

Tifa squeezed his hand in reply; three times, for three little words. "Anywhere."

"Anywhere it is."

Cloud turned the wheel, and the wind filled the sails.


It quickly had begun Tifa's habit to spend her lunch breaks with Cloud on his boat. Every day the boat had looked a little more put together, and she had learned how to walk on its deck when it swayed beneath her feet, that she should keep her knees lightly bent and stance a little wider to move with the gentle rolling. She had pretended not to notice when Cloud began buying two of everything; two tumblers, two dishes, two seat cushions; and in return, he had pretended not to notice that the Seventh Heaven chefs mixed up somebody's order every day right before lunch.

"Hey, Tifa," Cloud had asked one day. "When I'm done repairing the boat… Would you want to take her out with me?"

And Tifa had nearly choked on her hamburger. "Of course," she had said. "Definitely. That would be…" She had smiled. "That would be great."

And he had smiled in reply, one of those rare smiles where she suddenly couldn't breathe and the world seemed to hold still for a moment.

"Thank you, Tifa," he had said. "That means a lot."

She had wanted to tell him that it meant so much to her, too. That she wanted nothing more that come with him, that she wanted to see the world from his perspective – that she knew that it would be so much more than her tiny perspective sprung up from her small-town life.

But instead she had said, "Remember, you promised to show me the stars."

It was the closest Cloud had ever come to laughing.


At some point, Cloud had found the spot he had been looking for. It was in the middle of nowhere, little more than another dark blue patch in an endless expanse of other blue patched, but Cloud seemed confident that he had found his spot. When she had asked how he was so certain, he had simply quoted some coordinates and waved vaguely at the compass, and that had been the end of that.

He made quick work of furling the sail, and wrapped it up tightly against the mast before dropping anchor. The heavy anchor splashed into the water, sending glassy spray arching in all directions, and Tifa watched in fascinated as the anchor's black disappeared beneath the rolling waves and into the endless blue beneath the small boat.

"This was our spot," Cloud explained simply as he checked the anchor, making sure that it had sunk completely and wasn't dragging uselessly against the seafloor. "Has a nice view of the shore, huh?"

Tifa twisted her body to squint at mainland, and could just make out white sandy beaches, the brown rooftops of town, the jagged outline of mountains crowning the horizon. "We're far," she said, surprised. "When did that happen?"

Cloud grinned. "She's speedy, huh?"

"She is," Tifa agreed. She hadn't even realized how fast they had been going.

"Are you hungry?" Satisfied with the small sailboat's state of affairs, he sat down on the bench across from her and pulled out a cooler from underneath the seat. "I brought a few things."

"A few things?" Tifa teased as he opened the cooler. Cloud had thought of everything; drinks, sandwiches, pre-made salads… even little tubs of ice cream that were nestled against the ice. "How long are we staying out for, a week?"

He laughed. "Just a few more hours, until sunset," he said as he handed her one of the drinks, its glass so cold that condensation beaded against it and chilled her skin.

"Sunset?"

"Well." Cloud grinned at her, soft and crooked and everything she wanted. "I promised to show you the stars, hadn't I?"


The final piece of the boat to get repaired was the mast. It had taken a lot of work, and a lot of trial-and-error, but eventually Cloud had been able to hire a mechanic named Cid. Cid, as it had turned out, was a god-send. By some miracle he had the mast fixed within the week, and another to order the new sail and rig it on.

Tifa had left her shift early to watch them unfurl the sail for the first time.

It had been a gloomy sort of day. The salty air was thick with moisture and heavy clouds hung suspended in the gray sky, the sort of clouds that promised rain. The sea gulls had paid no mind to the turning weather, however, and had continued to shriek profanities at one another, a symphony of tangled noise that Cloud held his breath to.

"Ready?" Cid had called down.

But Cloud hadn't replied the first time. He had only stared up at the newly repaired mast, and Tifa suddenly didn't think that it had been the sky that looked stormy; there had been another storm hidden in his gaze, as if he had been looking at the temperamental sky and yet saw something totally different. His hand had tightly gripped the feather his tattoo on his arm; his skin had paled further.

Without thinking, she had looped his hand in his and squeezed; a show of support, a little bit of comfort in a place where he had none. "Ready?" she had murmured.

And Cloud had blinked, as if he had suddenly remembered where he was, before he had curtly nodded. His hand had dropped from his tattoo. "Ready," he had called up to Cid, and his voice had been strong and even.

Cid, without further ado, had unfurled the sail.

Tifa remembered how white it had looked; a little piece of pearly perfection set against a dark, stormy sky.

"Looks good," she had whispered.

Cloud's lips had pressed together, his eyes suddenly glassy, and he had only squeezed her hand tightly in response.


Firs the setting sun had burned the water a brilliant gold before it had sunk a little lower into the horizon, staining the sea rusty shades of reds and oranges and yellows, only for the vibrant colors to fade into black with every gentle wave. Seeing the sunset from the open ocean was different, somehow, than seeing it from land. The sunset felt more real here. More consuming. Here, Tifa wasn't just watching the sunset.

She was being swallowed by it.

"I can see why you like this," Tifa murmured after a lengthy pause. She shifted her gaze up, up, up, to where the rosy sunset met the darkening, deepening twilight. "I think I can stay out here forever."

Cloud popped his up from the hatch, a thick blanket in his arms. "Hm?"

"I said that this is nice." Tifa gratefully accepted the blanket. It had gotten cold with the sunset, and goosebumps had peppered her skin. "That… I can probably do this every single day," she finally admitted.

Cloud's entire expression lit up. "It's addicting," he agreed, easing himself beside her. He tilted his chin towards the sky, to the twilight that was slowly overtaking the sunset's rich auburn, and his expression was somber; as if he was beside her, and yet his mind was a thousand miles away.

But then his eyes suddenly widened. "There!" His fingers tugged on her blanket, demanding her attention, as he pointed with his other hand. "That's the first star."

Tifa followed his point and, sure enough, there was the first star of the night. It was a faint pinprick of light, a soft blink that fought desperately against the waning sunlight.

"That one is called domum, or home," Cloud explained, shifting to sit closer beside her. The boat swayed beneath them with every rolling wave. "It always points north, so if you're ever lost, you can use it to -"

"- to find your way back home," Tifa finished, blinking.

Cloud grinned at her. "Yeah."

Somewhere in his explanation, his arm had somehow ended up around her shoulder, and she had somehow ended up nestled against his side, buried in his warmth. And as the night wore on, and a few more stars speckled the sky, they had moved to the bow of the ship; his arm now pillowing her head, the blanket now covering the both of them as they lay against the deck.

"Thanks for coming," he said again, his voice low – low enough that it had nearly been buried by the rippling waves and the boat creaking beneath them. She turned to face him, and the contours of his face highlighted silver with starlight."I..."

Tifa lifted a hand, brushed it against his cheek. "Of course, Cloud." He leaned into her touch, eyelashes fluttering, and she teased, "You may just have to convince me to go back, though."

His eyes danced at her implication, though his voice was even as he replied, "Convince you?"

Tifa hummed, not committing to an answer, only leaned slightly forward…

… and Cloud suddenly met her half way, their lips crushing together. His lips were hot against hers; soft yet firm, slow yet urgent, and pressed against her with such gentle desperation; as he was afraid that she'd disappear on him if he didn't grasp her tightly enough, afraid that if he held on too tightly, she'd slip between of his fingers.

Those same fingers that were now pressing against her hips, his callouses so gentle and rough that Tifa leaned further into him, her hand slipping to the back of his head, her fingers weaving into his hair, her kisses burning.

She wanted to reassure him that she was here. Reassure him that she wasn't going anywhere; that their sky was clear of clouds, and that all they could see were stars.


The day after Cloud had finished repairing his boat – now renamed from Freedom to The Reunion – she had spotted him on the docks, right before she had finished her afternoon shift. There had been something different about him today. Maybe it was the way he leaned against mast, head down and arm draped over his knee, or maybe it were the two beer cans beside him that he seemed to have been doing his best to ignore.

Tifa had frozen by the window, a plate of steamed clams swimming in its butter sauce, and had only watched as Cloud had grabbed the two beer cans and had slowly picked himself up. He had popped open the first, grimacing a bit as he took a sip, then had opened the other.

But he hadn't drunk it, as she had been expecting.

Instead, he walked to the edge of the boat and had poured the beer off the side, into the churning water.

Tifa had watched, transfixed, vaguely feeling like she had intruded on something, yet she had not been able to look away.

She had seen his lips move.

Had seen the way his expression seemed intent on breaking, and her heart had broken for him.

He had looked as if he had been saying goodbye.

And yet, when she had met him when their shift had finished, he hadn't looked depressed, as she had been expecting. Instead, Cloud had looked lighter than she had ever seen him. As if there had been a weight on his shoulders, but it had sunk into the water along with the cheap beer, and he could finally breathe again.

That evening was the first time she had ever heard him laugh.


Stars swept across the dark sky as if they had been spilled there, a vibrant cluster of white bursting against dusted nebulas of reds, and violets, and greens. Tiny stars blinked back at her while the larger stars, their light threatening to swallow up its smaller neighbors, burned hot and bright and even. The deep ocean water reflected them all, a wavering silver mirror colored muted shared of reds, violets, and blue so dark that it was almost black.

Cloud had been right, Tifa realized, wide-eyed, her chin tilted upwards towards the sky. I really can't see the spaces between the stars.

"What do you think?" Cloud murmured, his breath hot against her neck. His eyelashes fluttered as he closed them.

Tifa only shook her head, her dark eyes still pinned on the scene above her. "I didn't know that the stars could look like that," she finally said. "I… There's just so many."

She felt Cloud's lips tug into a smile. "Cause of light pollution," he finally said. "No lights way out here, so we can see all of them."

"Think we can come again?" Their noses nearly brushed together as Tifa turned towards him, her hair fanned out beneath her. "Maybe tomorrow?"

Cloud huffed a laugh, and heat splashed across her face. "Maybe. Gotta check the weather..."

"I'll check, too." Tifa smiled, leaned slightly forward so that their noses touched. Cloud's smile broadened, his eyes still closed. "Promise?"

His chest rumbled with laughter. "Promise."

"And..." Tifa rolled over to face him completely. "And I know it's past sunset, but… can we stay a little longer?"

Cloud opened his eyes at that, and there was such warmth within his gaze that, all of a sudden, the night didn't feel that cold at all. "Of course," he murmured and pulled her closer against him, cocooning her in his warmth. He nuzzled her hair, faintly inhaling. "We can stay as long as we want."

"As long as we want," Tifa echoed, tilting her head once against to the stars sweeping above her. How easily she could get lost within them, in the tiny spaces between the stars, and she leaned closer to Cloud, closing her eyes, thinking that this felt a lot like home.


So like I said in the beginning, I never really write one-shots - this is my first attempt, tbh - and have no idea how I did haha. But I hope you enjoyed it anyway?

Anyway, I post all of my story/fic updates on my Twitter (Rand0mSmil3z) - feel free to follow if you liked this story & want to read more! Visit my profile for the link - you can find links to my ko-fi and published books there, too :)

Thank you!