Tifa slammed the door open and stalked grimly across the room toward Sephiroth. He was cool and composed as ever, quite unruffled by her melodramatic entrance.
She came to a stop in front of him, nearly quivering with poorly surpressed outrage.
"I don't know what sort of sick mindgame you're trying to pull, but I warn you...."
His lips curved upward in a condescending smile as he raised an inquiring eyebrow.
"Cloud and I were having a perfectly civil conversation. I don't see anything objectionable in that."
Tifa ground out, "Don't you dare play innocent with me! I've seen how you look at Cloud."
"I find him rather interesting. Do you have a problem with that?"
"And why is that?"
"You know why!"
"Perhaps. But why don't you elaborate?" he said in deliberately provocative tones.
Tifa glared at Sephiroth and snarled, "Just stay away from Cloud."
"That's rather difficult, considering that we're supposed to be working together to defeat Jenova and Hojo." He eyed her with cool amusement.
"I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the way you're always trying to catch him alone."
"And do... what? Besides have some quiet, private conversation?"
"Private conversations about what?" Tifa snapped.
"Well, if I told you, they wouldn't be private, would they?" He cocked his head slightly. "If you're that desperate to know, why don't you ask Cloud instead of constantly snooping around corners?" Observing Tifa's twitch and flush, Sephiroth added, "Oh yes, I've noticed your rather clumsy attempts at surveillance, and I'm sure Cloud's noticed as well. SOLDIER-types are rather alert to that sort of activity. You might consider asking your ninja friend Kisaragi for some basic training in stealth."
Sephiroth continued smoothly, "Cloud hardly needs a babysitter. From what I saw back at the weapons plant, he's quite capable of taking care of himself. And I'm not putting him under any kind of duress. He's free to walk away from me at any time."
Tifa made a derisive snort and said, "You expect me to believe that?"
"I don't particularly care what you believe," he said dismissively.
"I. Don't. Trust. You."
"And you don't apparently trust Cloud, either."
There was a few seconds of ringing silence, then Tifa leaned in close and said harshly, "When it comes to you... no, I don't."
"And why is that?"
Sephiroth already knew, or at least had a very good idea, but it would be interesting to see what Lockheart would say.
"Why? Because you ruthlessly played with his emotions, manipulated him into doing your dirty work! You used him as a scapegoat, forcing him to bear the blame for things that weren't really his fault at all...!"
But before she could say more, Sephiroth abruptly reached out, placed his hand on her chest and shoved hard. As she staggered back a few steps, a coffee mug hurtled through the air between them before smashing into the wall amid an explosion of stoneware and scalding hot coffee.
They both turned to see Cloud standing in the open door, his blue eyes narrowed in blatant hostility. Without a word, he whirled and disappeared down the hallway.
"Cloud!" Tifa cried. She shot Sephiroth a furious look of her own and ran out the door after the blond.
Sephiroth bent down to pick up a piece of broken mug and eyed it thoughtfully. Tifa obviously believed that Cloud's anger -- and therefore his coffee mug -- had been directed toward him.
She was wrong.
Cloud had been aiming at -HER-.
// Cloud! Why'd you bring Tifa to a place like this!
// What the hell's the matter with you!?
// What if she dies!?