Disclaimer: If I was the creator of ff7, Tifa would have died a nasty, horrible death before the end of the first disk.
Warning: Refer to prologue
Beta: V. V. nice Arete, who beta'd a lot of chapters at once.
\ We're running out of time! \
\\\ .... \\\
\\ We're trying, but these things take time. \\
\ Time we don't have. She's getting closer! \
\\ I've talked to them, but they're understandably hesitant. \\
\ He needs us now. Remind them what will happen if She wins. They don't want that, now do they? \
\\\ .... \\\
\ Hey, loverboy? Are you going to help? Hey... Oh. \
\\ Let's leave him alone for now. Let him have this time. \\
\ Yeah.... Look, do what you have to do, okay? \
\\ I will. \\
\ Love you. \
\\ Love you, too. Watch out for him. \\
\ I will. \
\\\ .... \\\
"How is he?" Barret murmured, subdued.
Vincent sighed. "Still no change."
The object of their worries lay still beside Vincent's legs, as he had for the last several hours. The easy rise and fall of Cloud's chest implied a peaceful sleep, his body limp and relaxed. Carefully, Vincent stroked the younger man's pale hair with his claw. Hovering by the doorway, Barret stared determinedly away. Both expected Cloud's eyes to snap open, a fierce snap on his lips for watching him sleep. For some reason, Cloud never liked others watching him while he slumbered. During the quest, he always slept away from the others. Barret despised watching him sleep now that the chance had been given.
The strong scent of hot tea advanced Cid in the room, the pilot gingerly attempting to balance a tray as he walked to the bed. Barret snagged a mug as Cid passed him. He eyed it surreptitiously for cigar ashes before swigging it. Raising a delicate eyebrow at Barret, Vincent graciously accepted his own mug from his lover's hands. Vincent's eyes warmly thanked the pilot as the other man plopped beside him, carefully avoiding Cloud's still legs.
"Cat's with the blonde," Cid reported, glancing at the unconscious young man behind him. He quickly looked away. "Trying to find anything out on the bitch. Other Turks are doin' somethin' in Reno's room; I don't wanna know what."
"And Reeve?" Barret asked gruffly. His eyes avoided his leader's form. An image of Cloud, moaning incoherently and feverish with Mako poisoning, flashed through his mind. He took another gulp and glared at the floor.
Cid shrugged, his own eyes dark. "Sleepin'. He's fuckin' out." His last words slurred slightly, and he darted a quick glance at Cloud. This time, he did not look away. "Fuck, kid, when are you going to wake up?"
Vincent furtively squeezed his hand but remained silent. His crimson eyes stared unwaveringly at Cloud's unusually peaceful face. Barret glanced once at Vincent's claw, steady within the spikes, before looking away.
"Holy fucking shiiiitttt...." Reno murmured, waving a hand around slowly. His vivid eyes followed it, enraptured. "Look at it go!"
Rude inhaled deeply on his joint and watched his love, amused. Despite all the Mako in his bloodstream, the black mushrooms still packed a punch for Reno. Or maybe it was just the fact that was Reno's fifth so far.
"Whooo...." Reno cooed, wiggling his fingers. "Hee! I have... three... six... no, no, ten fingers! Look!"
Rude muffled a chuckle at the expression of pure awe on Reno's face, his dark eyes glittering behind his sunglasses. Perhaps it had not been such a bad idea to lure Reno in here after all. The young redhead had been pacing beside Strife's bedside ever since the end of the battle. This had been the only way Rude had known to get Reno's mind off Strife. Apparently, like it has always done since the first time, it had worked.
Reno laughed with sheer delight and brought up his other hand. "Ha ha! Look at this, Rude! Ain't it somethin'?"
Also, Reno's accent strengthened, Rude noted. Someone who didn't know Reno would probably have no idea what he was saying.
"Gibbon monkey!" Reno chortled happily, swinging his hands around.
Or just wouldn't believe it. "Let's lay down, Reno," Rude coaxed, smoking the last of his and standing up.
Reno lowered his hands and cocked his head at Rude. A lascivious smile played on his lips, and he batted his long, crimson lashes. "Is that an offer?"
Rude rolled his eyes. Reno being horny wasn't exactly something he could blame on the mushrooms. "Come on, Reno."
Rude sighed, but he couldn't help a small smile. "Better be."
Reno's grin lit up his face. "Then let's go!"
\ Look at that! And we're depending on these people to protect Cloud! \
\\\ .... \\\
\ Two of them are getting smoked off their asses and are about to screw each other– \
\\\ You of all people are getting angry about that? \\\
\ --And the others are completely lost! And I never– \
\\\ --Don't make a liar out of yourself. \\\
\ Well, almost never did that on duty. And never when my friends were at stake. There, no lie.\
\\\ (Sigh.) \\\
\ Oh, come on! You can't honestly say you're not worried. This is your lover in danger after all! And my best friend! How can we just sit on our asses and do nothing! \
\\ You don't have to. \\
\ Aeris! \
\\\ Elaborate. Now. \\\
\\ Ha! Well, I was talking with them, and it is agreed that they need help, especially Cloud, so we're going to do something a little radical. \\
\\\ Continue. \\\
\\ Unfortunately, at the moment, you can do nothing. You still haven't recovered from the damage Jenova did to you. You, on the otherhand.... \\
\ Whoo-hoo! I'm on the case! \
\\\... How long will it be before I can see him again? \\\
\\ Soon. Don't worry. \\
\ Don't worry, bud. I'll protect him. You know that. \
\\\ I know. I trust you to take care of him. Watch over him for me, please? \\\
\ Of course. Can I go now? \
\\ Yes. Please, take care. \\
\ I'll protect Cloud, and I'll come back to you. You don't have to worry about that. \
\\\ Be careful. \\\
\ I will. \
\\ Come on. It's time to go. \\
\ 'Bye everyone! I know you'll all miss me! Bye! \
At the same time silver eyes opened on the bluff overlooking Midgar, brilliant blue fluttered in the Neo-ShinRa base. "Zack...." Cloud breathed. The awkward, obscene conversation struggling between Barret and Cid thankfully stuttered to a halt. Vincent's claw paused within Cloud's wild spikes.
"Wha' did he say?" Barret wondered.
The vampire shrugged one shoulder, but his lips thinned. "It sounded like Zack. I've never heard him mention the name before. Perhaps his old lover. . . ?"
"Who cares who he is!" Cid snapped, silencing them both. "The kid's waking up!"
True to Cid's words, Cloud's eyes slowly drifted open. Dazed Mako-blue eyes took in the scene around him. He blinked once, as if unable to take it in. "Guys?" he muttered. "Wha--"
With a calm that sharply contrasted with his lover's frantic waving, Vincent gracefully lowered his mug onto the stand and nodded at Cloud. "Jenova attacked," the brunet asserted quietly. "You tried to fight back, but you passed out. After you were subdued, she sent in forces to capture you." He gestured towards the still shattered window. "They were successfully fought off."
Cloud scowled darkly at the broken glass and window pane. Barret tentatively reached out but pulled back his hand before the blond noticed. Vincent did not even raise an eyebrow. Ignoring the conflicting emotions on Barret's expressive face, the long-haired man focused on Cloud's eyes. The haunted gleam darkening those glowing orbs intensified as time passed. Vincent hoped the younger man remained stable until they discovered a way to defeat Jenova. Or, at least, didn't fall too far over the edge.
"Did she attempt anything when you fell asleep?" Vincent murmured, carefully withdrawing his claw from Cloud's hair. Cloud darted a quick look at him before glaring at the window again.
"No," he growled. "But she's never been able to do that before."
Cid snarled and slammed a fist onto the mattress. Vincent's mug, refreshing vapor rising from the newly poured tea, did not waver on its safe perch, the stand several inches away from the bed. Barret's, cupped within his massive hands, did not have that same assurance. Steaming liquid splashed Barret's horrified face. Howling, the man dropped the mug and covered his face with his hands. The mug landed quietly on the soft carpet and rolled innocently under the bed, away from Barret as he hopped across the room, screaming obscenities and pawing at his flesh. Vincent sighed and shook his head. Cid blatantly ignored him, even as he surreptitiously raised his hand from the mattress.
"You need a bodyguard, kid," Cid declared. "If we hadn't been here, you'd fuckin' be in Jenova's slimy claws. You need someone who can scare away that's bitch's goons!"
Vincent glanced at Cid indulgently, noticing out of the corner of his crimson eye that Cloud's face had darkened. "I believe Chaos would adequately work," he offered dulcetly. The small blond stretched beside him calmed, and Vincent reminded himself to tape Cid's mouth shut later. Make it a requisite for leaving the bedroom. "If, of course, my presence does not disturb you, Cloud."
Cloud surrendered a tight smile. "Fine. That would be fine." He glanced pointedly downwards, his bare, slender legs moving restlessly against Vincent's side. "I don't need to be watched while I'm getting showered and dressed, though." He wrinkled his nose. His blood had dried on his shirt, rousing a disgusting scent.
Vincent nodded, knowing Cloud did not give a damn about the state of his clothes. Laying his claw gently on the younger man's shoulder, he arose and picked up his mug. "We will meet you in Reeve's office," he promised, discreetly grabbing Cid's forearm with his claw. The blond yelped, but Vincent ignored him. "Feel free to borrow our clothes. They're in the drawers. We'll rouse the others." Vincent nodded once at the dazed Barret, the large man still wiping the tea from his face. "Barret will show you back to Reeve's office."
And will guard you on the way back. The last part was unspoken, but Cloud nodded resignedly nonetheless.
Barret blinked wildly as Vincent dragged his sulking lover out of the room, his step screaming of experience. Hesitantly, Barret wiped the last dredges of tea from his eyes. "Wha'?" he offered faintly.
Cloud flashed him a sharp smile. "You're on escort duty. Make sure Jenova's evil, evil goons don't get me." He gestured extravagantly towards the bed. "All yours while I'm in the shower. Then you have the pleasure of escorting me to Reeve's office."
The large man blinked, the move strangely insipid for such a large man. "Me?" Barret's dark eyes darted wildly. Cloud's grim smile never wavered.
"Yep." He stood with a dramatic stretch. "Don't worry; with any luck, I won't die on the walk there."
Barret paled slightly, and Cloud quieted. "Relax, Barret," he murmured. "It's just down the hall."
Barret remained deathly silent as Cloud searched through the drawers. One white shirt and black trousers later, he left the black man behind and walked into the other room. Dark eyes stared at him until Cloud closed the bathroom door.
Return to Archive | next | previous