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[Final Fantasy VII] - The Fight

Title: The Fight (1/??)
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Paring: Tifa/Cloud, Denzel/Marlene
Word Count: 2, 586
Summary: This fight, it seems, changes everything in all of their relationships.

                There's a freckle - a single angel kiss - sits at the corner of Tifa's mouth. It's something Cloud never notices normally - only when she yells at him.

                "I can't fucking believe you!"
                Cloud keeps his eyes on the clock. He keeps his mouth straight - his eyes clear - and doesn't respond. Tifa slams the bowl of pasta on the table. Marlene and Denzel jump, but both of them keep their heads down. Cloud takes a moment to wonder at the traits the two of them chose to take from him.

                Tifa's eyes are on fire. Her hands are on her hips - the classic 'Angry Tifa' pose.

                "He's fifteen, Cloud. Fifteen! He should not be on your bike by himself. He's not old enough to be able to control that...that monstrous thing!"
                Cloud waits for that pause that let him know he can speak. "Tifa-"
                "No!" Her eyebrows shoot to her hair line. Bad timing, Cloud. Tifa sits with a thump and serves Marlene a lump of pasta, then Denzel, then herself. She throws the spoons back into the bowl and crosses her arms - her eyes still on him. Nobody at the table moves for utensils. "Cloud, I don't want to hear anything you have to say. I don't want to know about it."
                Tifa turns her angry eyes to Denzel, but her mouth stays set. Her gaze moves to Marlene as well - her eyes angry and scrutinizing.
"I'm ashamed of both of you for this."
                Denzel doesn’t move. Marlene's head pops up - her eyes suddenly defensive. "I didn't do anything!-"
                "You -" Tifa turns, her eyes thinning, "didn't stop him. Marlene, I would have thought, out of both of you, that the common sense of not doing something as stupid and reckless as letting Denzel get on that bike - "
                "Tifa." Denzel's tone bites. He sounds like Cloud. There is anger in his eyes now. "It's not Marlene's fault! She-"
                "She let you do it." Tifa shoots back. Cloud hasn't seen her this angry in a long time. "That's reason enough to put you both at fault."
                "Tifa," Cloud starts, setting his eyes on that beauty mark at the side of her mouth.
                "You're grounded." Tifa says loudly - filling the entire kitchen with the noise. Her words are final and chilling - and the look on both Marlene and Denzel's faces are shocked and appalled. Cloud wonders if he ever had to worry about anything as horrible as being grounded. He can't remember.
                Tifa's angry eyes turned to him next. She waits - waits for him to make his move. Cloud swallows, takes a deep breath, and stands slowly.
                "Excuse me." He says, his tone a lot more clipped than he thought it would be - hell, when did he get this angry? He hadn't felt it building. It just sort of fell out of his stomach and made his face hot.
                Cloud turns on his heel, pushed his chair in calmly, and walks out of the kitchen. He has come to realize that fighting with Tifa never turns out well, and it always leaves him on the couch - or worse yet, out at Barret's or Cid's. He hates fighting with Tifa, and he hates that he can get so mad over something that will be forgotten in a week or so.
                Their fights often ended with him walking out.
                Cloud works on the bike the rest of the day. He heads up to the loft after the bar has been closed for a few hours and finds their bedroom door closed to him.

                Cloud sleeps on the couch.

                He wakes up early the next morning, starts the coffee pot, and is outside getting ready to leave when he encounters another one of his housemates.

                Denzel chucks a rock at him.

                Cloud backhands the rock and turns in one smooth motion.

                "Where are you going?" Denzel's voice is quiet. The just-morning light gives his face odd shadows.


                A look comes over Denzel's face - one that makes Cloud hate himself - one that twists the younger man's features into something horrifically like his own. It makes Cloud grit his teeth - makes the blonde drop his helmet - makes him move past the younger boy into the bar. Denzel stays at the doorway for another moment.

                They set the bar up together in silence.

                It's already getting hot outside.
                There's a scar on Cloud's shoulder - one Tifa never really noticed before. She had, yes - countless times - but she hadn't. It dances in the light, tight and pinching - old.

                Cloud has a tank top on - Tifa cut the sleeves off of one of his other shirts. It’s too hot for him to be wearing his thick cloth shirts. Not that Cloud would have said anything about the heat. Tifa caught him on the verge of passing out the other day - the stupid boy doesn't pay enough attention to himself.

                So Tifa cut the sleeves off of one of his other shirts - an older shirt that he used to wear while he worked on his bike, one he wouldn't miss as much. One she said she hated but loved the feel and smell of - and she makes sure that she left the damned thing out for him the next day. On the floor, in front of the door.

                The temperature outside is stifling - and even with the fans going full blast the inside of the bar was an oven. Tifa's shorts are sticking to the backs of her legs, and she is sure her entire back is soaked with sweat.

                Cloud - along with Denzel, who feels the need to prove himself to Cloud even though this grounding is clearly Cloud's fault - are outside, unloading cases of alcohol and bringing them into the basement. Heavy labor, in the heat that could cook a chocobos egg on the pavement, the two freaks are lugging boxes up a set of steep stairs.

                Idiots. The pair of them!

                Marlene has draped herself over the bar top - the girl's shirt is tied up with a hair tie and soaked clean through. Tifa lets her wear bathing suit bottoms - 'If you can where your bathing suit top,' Marlene protested, 'then I can wear mine too!' - and makes sure that she remembers to push a cup of water over toward the young girl every once in awhile. Marlene's shirt is white and see-through - and Tifa is almost sure that she’s asleep now. Finally.

                Tifa pushes her bangs from her face and checks the clock. Another hour until noon. How could it possibly be this hot?

                There were two other patrons in the bar - a pair of old men that drank on occasion and played chess near the window. Tifa fills up two pitchers and moves outside.

                Cloud's skin shines with sweat, his hair almost pure gold in the light. Tifa's footsteps almost falter - her equilibrium suddenly thrown. Cloud's shoulder twitch slightly - he hears her. He kept his back to her and continues loading the bottles of ale into a crate. Tifa wrinkles her nose - he's ignoring her.

                Tifa rolls her hips, lets out a breath, and throws one pitcher at his back.

                Tifa would have never guessed that Cloud scream like a girl when hit with cold water.
                "Well," Yuffie says, sitting on top of the bar, "this is certainly a change. For a whole day?"

                "Not a word." Tifa says. The bar is full of smoke, and Cid is laughing at something that Cloud said. The blond has a slightly please half-smile on his face. Tifa feels her face flush, just a little, before Yuffie says anything.

                "Either of them?"

                "None. Not since yesterday."

                "Denzel I can understand." Yuffie downs a swig of beer - and shoves the empty thing toward Tifa. The ninja has even less clothing on - if you could call a thin peace of terry cloth clothing - that Tifa though she would ever have walked around in. Yuffie wipes her nose and leans forward on her elbows. "But Cloud normally acts like nothing happened. Or he goes out to Cid's. Not a word?"

                "He hasn't said anything to anyone." Marlene adds. The younger girl keeps her eyes on the bar top. She snatches the empty bottle from Tifa's hand and slips it into it's proper place. She then set about opening another one. Yuffie and Tifa share a look - Yuffie has a smile on.

                "Is he on the couch tonight?" The ninja asks.

                "If he wants’ to keep his eyes where they belong."

                "I'm sorry Tifa." Marlene says softly, placing the beer on the counter, than turns on her bare heal and leaves the area behind the bar. Marlene makes a sweep over to where the group of men are sitting and smiles at Barret. She kisses him on the cheek - an action that makes him laugh - and continues her way up the stairs. Cid and Cloud watch - Tifa notices the pure look on Cloud's face. His eyes follow Marelen’s movements, her essence - affectionate and hopeless. Tifa watches Marelen's escape silently, Clouds face quietly, something in her chest aching to comfort the child - but to comfort the man more. She understands. But boiled anger keeps her words stuffed in her throat. Yuffie takes a sip of her new beer and humms.

                "You really that angry?"

                "You think She would be this angry?"

                Yuffie pauses, lips around the opening of her new beer. She blows softly across the top and stares at the groves in the wood. Tifa watches Cloud from across the bar - the way his eyes seamen almost grey in the lighting, glowing faintly. Barret is saying something softly to his blond friend, to which Cloud merely nods and turns away. She watches as Cid and Barret give looks to each other, much like the look that she and Yuffie shared moments before. Yuffie sucks in a deep breath, letting her eyes close.

                "For a little, maybe." The dark haired girl answers truthfully. "But if She was here, I don't think-"

                "-there Yuffie?" Vincent's voice softly crackles from the radio on the ninja's hip. Both of the girls jump, and Yuffie practically vaults off her seat and is out the door to answer his call. Leaving Tifa to stare at the man she loves and hates at the same time, alone.
                Tifa sighs when she sleeps - a soft noise of comfort and contentment.

                He kind of misses that sound. Even after two nights apart, the sound that seems so soft and insignificant is suddenly something he finds himself longing for.

                After a night? God, he's pathetic.            

                The next day, it’s hotter.

                The heat wakes Cloud at four, a baking feeling. He's stuck to the couch fabric - the tight air of the upstairs apartment is suffocating. Their - Tifa's bedroom is closed, keeping any cold air the fan in there gives off to room itself.

                An early start. Good thing - he isn't sleeping well anyway. He hasn't been.

                Something swirls in the center of his chest, glowing and resentful, telling him what he doesn't want to hear.

                Denzel wanders down at 6 in little more than a pair of shorts, and together they set the bar up early. Denzel busies himself washing cups while Cloud mops the floor. It seems, in this space of bottled words and tangible anger, they managed to get more done then they ever had before. Cloud can't remember the last time that he mopped the floor. Since when did Denzel wash the dishes without complaining?

                Denzel is more grown up then Cloud gives him credit for. The boy's shoulders and chest swell with his age, his nose just to Clouds chin. There are dotted stars and rough patches on his hands - working nicks as proof that Denzel is trying. Still trying. Sometimes, Cloud forgets that Denzel lived through a difficult childhood - that his teenage years like theses, with the awkward growing and the gaining of knowledge - are horrible in ways that Cloud cannot for the life of him remember. Cloud notes how different and similar they are in a nanosecond and is amazed that this thought even crossed his mind. It would have never surfaced if...

                Something’s changed.

                Something’s changed with that fight - something between him and Tifa and the kids - it's shifted something. Made something perfectly clear and opaque at the same time. It makes Cloud feel uneasy, this change is something drastic. He can't explain it, but he can feel it. Breathe it.

                Tifa slipped down at seven - Cloud is already out working on his bike. Denzel sweeps out of the room as she steps on the ground floor - the motion not escaping her eyes. Cloud isn't sure what Denzel does after they set up the bar - but Cloud normally doesn’t see anyone all day.

                By noon, there are dots dancing at the corner of Clouds left eye. The scar over his eyebrow is throbbing, and the joints in his arms are aching. He smiles and thinks I'm getting old, then remembers exactly how old he is and his smile falls off his face.

                "Cloud!" Marlene says, an entire pitcher of water in her hands. The girl is a godsend - and the smile on her petite face lets Cloud know she knows it. Marlene makes him sit in the shade of the garage and makes sure that he drinks the entire pitcher.

                "Your getting sunburn on your shoulders."

                Her small fingers are cold against his hot skin. Cloud hasn't realized the cherry color he’s turning. Marlene leans her head against his arm and humms. Outside the bar, the ground is a dirty color - a sand speckled with grease and foreign dirt. The bar faces outwards - away from the inner city - giving the edge of Midgar a little liquor tinted color. The blinding glare of a yellow seven on the roof is dazzling in the light.

                Marlene has grown up. With another four years under her belt, the little girl has become a young lady - a, God help them, teenager. Her hair is long and dances in the wind. Her arms and legs are growing, eyes still child light. She's careful where she should be now, sensing things that women normally sense, understand without being told. Marlene isn't his either - Cloud wonders, for the second time in two days, where the hell these thoughts are all coming from.

                Something changed. It growls low in his stomach and makes his heart ache.

                "Are you going to leave again?"

                Cloud feels something catch in his chest. "No."

                "Promises me that." She says softly. Cloud's chest is slick, and Marlene tugs on his pants. Carefully - a simple shuffle across his hip. "Please."

                "Cross my heart." He says, and means it. Cloud would give his life to her. He feels he owes it to her.

                Perhaps that's where this sudden, uncomfortable feeling has come from. Maybe that is why he’s mad. He has never been mad before - not at Tifa, or at any of them. Marlene tucks her face into the bend of his arm and holds him. She smells like clovers and their shampoo. He is sure, for a minute, that she’s crying.

                The water is cool on his arm.