Post-Advent Children, happy-ending fic. Cloud takes Tifa for a ride. For Het Challenge 2006.
The bar feels crowded when Barret comes to visit. He's only one guy, but he's a big guy, and loud, especially when he's telling Marlene how proud he is of his little girl, or encouraging Denzel to show off, now that the geostigma's healed and the poor kid /can/. Cloud doesn't mind, exactly -- it's good to see the children smile, to hear laughter. It makes their broken little family feel real, and they've all waited long enough for that.
But still, sometimes he needs to get away for a little while, get some peace and quiet to clear his head. Usually that'll mean heading out to the garage, messing with Fenrir's engine, giving the bike tune-ups it doesn't actually need. He tries not to take as many long delivery jobs these days, so the bike doesn't take nearly as much punishment. But it's soothing, something to do with his hands, just complex enough to take most of his concentration.
He looks up when he hears the side door open. It's Tifa, leaning in the doorway, watching him. "Am I interrupting?" she asks.
"No," Cloud says, reaching for a rag to wipe his hands. "It's fine. Did you need something?"
Tifa shrugs one shoulder, lifting his spare set of driving goggles off the hook on the wall. "You want to go for a ride?"
Cloud blinks. "I thought you hated my bike," he says.
"I hate watching you ride away," she corrects him gently.
"Tifa...." He stands up, and she steps forward, into his arms. It's still strange to hold her, to feel her warm and solid and real in his arms, after holding on to ghosts for so long. He buries his face in her hair. "Barret agreed to look after the children?"
"He said," and Tifa pulls back so she can smile at him as she speaks, "that if you didn't take me out and show me a good time, he was going to slap you upside your spiky head."
Cloud smiles -- it still feels awkward, but he's getting better at it, slowly. "I guess we should go, then."
Tifa steps away to pull the garage door open, and Cloud stops himself from offering to do it for her. There are some ways she does need his strength, and some ways she's fine on her own, and he thinks he's starting to be able to tell the difference.
He throws a leg over Fenrir and starts the engine, easing up to the doorway and pulling his goggles on. Tifa looks a little silly in his extra pair, but she looks /happy/, too, so he doesn't say a word about it as she climbs on behind him. Zack would have teased her, he thinks -- but he's not trying so hard to be Zack anymore.
"Where do you want to go?" he asks, as she wraps her arms around his waist.
"I just want to get out of here for a while," she says, and leans her head against his shoulder. "How fast can this monster go?"
Cloud shrugs, and it's a little easier to smile this time. "Depends on how much space we have to get up speed."
The streets of the Edge are cramped and twisting, with no clear planning to make sense of them, but Cloud knows them probably better than anyone by now. He finds them a smooth route, as much as there is such a thing, and it's not long before they're leaving the wreckage of the city behind for the broad open expanse of the wasteland.
"Faster?" he calls, glancing back over his shoulder.
"Go for it," she says, the words just reaching him before the wind whips them away again. He nods, and opens up the throttle.
Tifa's grip tightens around his waist, but he thinks he hears her laugh, too, as the engine roars and Fenrir devours the open ground. The earth here is no longer as black and sludgy and sick as it was when ShinRa was bleeding the lifestream dry to keep Midgar running, but it's still only just started to recover. Cloud can tell, almost as sure as if Aeris is still there to say the words, that it'll be years yet before this plain is fertile again.
It would take hours to get completely clear of it, to reach the forests beyond the eastern edge of the wasteland, and the going gets tricky further out, with the way the lifestream has changed the landscape. So Cloud doesn't try to head that far -- instead he just takes them out far enough that he can really get the bike up to speed, and then, before they've gotten far enough out to lose sight of the city, turns them back.
He circles them around, and comes back into Midgar's Edge from another direction, slowing down just enough to avoid collisions with pedestrians and slower vehicles. He almost turns toward the church, out of old habit, but he doesn't need to go there anymore, not now. So he passes the turn, heading further in, toward the new Seventh Heaven. Toward home.
"Turn left," Tifa says, raising her voice to be heard over the growl of Fenrir's engine.
"Left?" Cloud says, surprised -- there's nothing that way but the ruins of the old city, the twisted wreckage of Midgar -- but he goes. The street becomes difficult to negotiate pretty fast, and he slows down, brings the bike purring to a halt. "Where are we going?"
"We're just -- just not going home yet," Tifa says, pressing her face to his shoulder, mumbling so he can hardly catch all the words. "If we go home we'll have to be quiet and Denzel might interrupt us and I -- I don't want to have to be rushed and careful and silent every time."
"Oh," Cloud says. "/Oh/." He glances back, trying to catch her eyes. "We could -- could find an inn, if you want. I mean...this doesn't seem too, I don't know...teenage?"
She won't look up at him, and the words tumble out low and fast and almost desperate. "We're not that old, not really, even if it seems that way sometimes, even if we've already had a lifetime's worth of trouble. And we never got those years, after what happened to Nibelheim, and --"
"Tifa," Cloud interrupts, twisting to face her, "I didn't say no." She trails off, looking up, and he leans in to kiss her despite the awkward angle. It's still new, still surprising that after all these years of not managing to connect, they're finally, sort of, working it out. When he pulls back from the kiss, she smiles. "We should get off the street, shouldn't we?"
Tifa nods. "Probably."
Cloud steers Fenrir through the dead ends and broken masonry and suddenly buckling pavement of Midgar's ruins, into the shadow of a half-demolished warehouse, and cuts the engine. "It's not much for romance, is it," he says apologetically.
"I don't really mind," Tifa says. She climbs off the back of the bike, then puts a hand on his shoulder to stop him when he rises to follow her. "Don't go anywhere." She pushes him back in the seat and climbs back on, in front of him and facing him this time. The look in her eyes is half bravado, half nerves. "This is okay?"
Cloud nods. "Of course." He reaches out, rests his hands on her waist carefully, leans in for another kiss now that they can actually get comfortable. Sort of. Their knees bump awkwardly, and the position presses his thighs apart, but Tifa drapes her arms around his neck and parts her lips for his tongue and the rest doesn't really matter.
So many years wasted, when he didn't know what to say to her, and then she didn't know what to say to him, when the distance between them was more than just physical. So many years they've waited for it to be this.../easy/ between them. Tifa moans into his mouth, and Cloud holds her tighter. The leather of Fenrir's saddle squeaks as she moves, squirming against it, like she's trying to get closer to him still, like she wants to --
"Right here?" he says, pulling back a little in surprise, when she reaches down.
"Yes?" she says hopefully. She stops moving, but doesn't withdraw her hand.
He almost wants to laugh, it's so unlike her -- so unlike them -- so unlike these past years that it almost seems to belong to someone else's life. "Yes," he says, smiling helplessly, "yes." He reaches out to help her kick and squirm her way out of her shorts, and then she moves to help with the buttons on his pants, and suddenly they're both hurrying, rushing like they are teenagers with no time to spare.
"Like this?" Cloud asks, easing her down on her back, over the sleek shell of the bike. His gloves must be rough against her skin, but Tifa doesn't complain, doesn't ask him to be careful.
Instead she reaches up, over her head, curling her hands around Fenrir's handlebars. "Yes," she says, "like this," and her cheeks are flushed, her voice a little unsteady, but she's smiling, a real, giddy smile.
Cloud plants his feet on the ground, straddling the bike, and leans forward as Tifa lifts her knees. He pushes, and she's slick, yielding -- he slides at first, the angle a little odd, and then she tilts her hips just right and he can't help a little ragged sound as he sinks in.
She wraps her legs around his waist, pulling him close, and he braces one hand between hers for balance, and rocks his hips. Fenrir's shocks creak as he thrusts, and Tifa moans, a sweet, throaty sound that echoes in the empty warehouse. Cloud bows his head, biting his lip to keep quiet as he moves -- she feels so good, hot and slick, clutching tight around him.
"Don't," Tifa pleads, turning her head to nuzzle at his throat, to breathe the words into his ear. "Don't hold back. Please. Just this once, let me hear you."
"Tifa," Cloud breathes, as she flexes, drawing him in deeper. "Ah, Tifa." He pushes, moves with her, burying his face in her hair. It's easier like that to let go -- they learned to move together almost immediately, the awkwardness fading almost as soon as they found the courage to touch. They've both always been good at the physical, and sometimes Cloud still thinks it's easier to show her how he feels than to say it. But he can answer her moans, at least -- hesitantly, at first, but then louder, more ragged, as she grows tenser under him -- and he can feel her flexing, her whole body drawing taut, her breath coming in little gasps and whimpers -- "Please," he manages, "please, Tifa," and just a few more strokes and she reaches her limit, trembling, twisting, practically sobbing through it, rich needy sounds like she never makes when they're at home -- and Cloud moves faster, thrusting deep, so ready now, with Tifa slick and tight around him and -- and --
And it's like the bright arc of a Bolt down his spine when he comes, and he barely recognizes the sound he makes, the pure sense of release at last. He slides an arm under Tifa's shoulders, carefully, and sits back, pulling her into his lap. She's still shaking a little, and after a minute he realizes that he is, too.
"Cloud," Tifa murmurs, her head resting against his shoulder. "I...thank you."
There are more words waiting to be said, heavy in the air between them, but Cloud isn't sure he's ready to trust himself to say them. Not yet. "You don't need to thank me," he says instead. "I promise." He cups Tifa's face in one hand, carefully, and kisses her. This much, at least, he knows.
She's smiling when he pulls back, with the warmth in her eyes that means she understands, that means she knows what he isn't saying. "We should go home, shouldn't we?" she asks, shifting, sliding out of his lap awkwardly to reach for her shorts. "Barret's probably wondering if something's happened to us."
"Probably," Cloud agrees. He starts Fenrir's engine, as Tifa climbs on behind him, and looks back at her with a smile. "If he has a problem with it, he's welcome to try to slap me upside my spiky head."
Tifa laughs, sliding her arms around his waist, and Cloud turns the bike toward home.