Cloud x Reno. After the Lifestream engulfs Meteor and Midgar is little more than ruins, Cloud finds a little comfort in the strangest of places.
Warnings: I guess this flirts between PG and R for some kissing and a little language. Cloud x Reno. Very mild angst (it's more like the overall tone of the fic) and ... uh, I don't know what else. ^^;;
Summary: After the Lifestream engulfs Meteor and Midgar is little more than ruins, Cloud finds a little comfort in the strangest of places. I guess I'll throw this in the same arc as 'Roulette Chips' and 'Chasing Blue Skies', but it's not directly a sequel. Sort of. Maybe. Reno and Cloud are being indecisive about it. >P
Everyone offered to accompany him, but Cloud refused to let anyone come with him to Midgar this time. No/, he'd said, a little abruptly than he wanted, /it'll be dangerous.
Many of the pillars had collapsed, so much so that even Tifa's bar was fairly difficult to access, though everyone had tried on numerous occasions to clear out some of the rubble that blocked sector seven. It wasn't unusual for bits and pieces of debris to be cleared away, only for something else to collapse and make more debris. At one point, Cloud entertained the thought of giving up out of sheer frustration.
This time though, as the blonde ex-SOLDIER picked his way through the depressing rubbish, he knew he couldn't just give up and ignore. Other people were seeing his efforts with everyone else and were starting to try and clear up Midgar themselves. Shinra, however, hadn't been heard from since it's downfall and the president's disappearance - with everyone presuming him to be dead and Shinra's influence over the people now at zero, there was no way any other person could've picked up the pieces successfully.
So, Midgar was somewhere around forty percent destroyed and the main benefactor of power was out of commission. What kind of odds were those to be up against? Cloud didn't know whether to be happy or annoyed at Shinra. Sure, they were gone, but they were also the ones who should be the ones rebuilding.
Cloud was pulled out of his thoughts when he heard something that sounded awfully like an explosion. He spun around to where the sound echoed from and was narrowly missed by flying bits of building and heavy smoke. The blonde ducked down, pulling his sword from his sheath. After a few calm moments where there was no more noise and the dust finally started to settle, Cloud stood again, gripping the hilt of his sword loosely.
He frowned as he looked around, not seeing the source of the disturbance. /Maybe something else just gave way/, Cloud thought to himself as he put his sword back into the sheath. /It's not like it's out of the ordinary/.
Cloud began to walk aimlessly again. He hadn't figured out where he wanted to go yet; maybe he'd visit what was left of the Wall Market in sector six, or that old church in sector five. Cloud scratched that last idea. He did want to go there and sit for a while, since it was one of the only places in Midgar where natural moonlight came through even now. Yet he didn't want the memories that were bound to resurface as soon as he got there; by the time the blonde would've finally worked up the momentum to move, he'd have been too depressed to see straight.
Sector six marketplace it was then, Cloud decided.
Despite everything going on in Midgar, all the shops still had their gaudy lights bright and flashing. The Honeybee still had a dozen men outside of its doors, waiting to be admitted inside. Cloud vaguely wondered how so many people could still be here, oblivious to everything, but somehow he understood. He was down here too, wasn't he?
He made his way past the inn to the bar, pushing through the thick throng of people loitering outside of it. Best as his efforts were, Cloud couldn't quite manage to not bump into anyone, which left him with quite a few people's nasty remarks chasing him. Deciding it best to let the remarks hang, the blonde maneuvered through more people until he was able to find a chair at the main bar. Sliding onto the bar stool, Cloud propped one elbow up on the bar, resting his chin in his palm.
A few minutes passed before the bartender was finally able to escape the rowdy men occupying the other end of the bar. Cloud looked up when the bartender tapped his fingers in front of him.
"What'll have you?" the man said, smiling jovially.
Cloud sucked in a breath, hesitating. He hadn't really thought about actually drinking something. Another voice, a familiar voice, piped up.
"Give him your best beer, on me. Don't forget one for me, too."
Cloud turned to the person who spoke, and upon realization he was a little shocked, but not really ungrateful for the company. He let out the breath he'd not known he was holding. Why did he always run into Reno at the strangest times? He seemed to draw the redhead like a magnet.
"Thanks," Cloud said, his eyes flickering back to the bartender when the man sat down two slim, open bottles and short glasses to accompany them. "I was probably going to order water."
Reno laughed and a grin settled on his features. "You could've stayed home for that, man."
"Not everyone likes the heavy stuff," Cloud replied, taking sips from his beer, ignoring his glass entirely. It was smooth, and thankfully, it wasn't as bad as some other beers he'd had the unfortunate privilege of tasting. Still, beer was beer, and the aftertaste made him want to spit.
"Yeah, well, I know that I sure as hell don't come here for the awesome scenery." The redhead shot back. The gulps Reno took of his drink made Cloud think that the Turk was way too used to it. "So, what brings you here, anyway?"
Cloud shrugged. "Needed to get out."
Reno laughed again, signaling the bartender for another drink. "Oh, really? That all?"
"Should there be any other reason?" Cloud inquired, slightly puzzled.
Reno couldn't stifle another round of chuckles, much to Cloud's slight irritation. "Nope, not at all."
Cloud frowned as he drained the last of the beer in his bottle, sucking in his lip when the acrid liquid threatened to drip down his chin. He set it back down with a thud, and for a moment, contemplated drinking the second bottle Reno had asked for him. Going against the little voice in his head, Cloud began to drink that bottle as well.
How long the silence stretched before he spoke, Cloud didn't know. As he drank, Reno had this lazy, peaceful sort of look on his face that the blonde was hesitant to interrupt. It also made Cloud wonder how many drinks the redhead had before the ones he'd ordered with him.
"You never told me why you're here yourself, Reno. That is, except for the wonderful dÃ©cor," Cloud said conversationally, the last bit a little sarcastic.
Cloud's voice demanded Reno's attention, and the Turk blinked slowly. A little too slowly, in fact. "For the most part? I was bored shitless." Reno finally replied, bringing a hand up to stifle a yawn.
It was Cloud's turn to laugh a little. Reno's company really wasn't that bad. "I have a feeling that my reason is better than yours."
"Oh yeah?" Reno said through another yawn. "Damn, I'm more tired than I thought."
Cloud snorted in amusement, setting his now-empty bottle on to the bar. Whatever affects the alcohol were supposed to have on him weren't happening with the small amount he'd drank, but he could tell already that Reno, on the other hand, had already imbibed more than his share. He watched as Reno placed the price of the drinks on the bar, again signaling for the bartender to come and ring it up.
His eyes followed Reno's movements as he slid off of his bar stool in a slinky way, as if his body were made of liquid. It had a hypnotizing effect for Cloud, and it was only by subconscious reflex that he didn't fail to act when Reno tripped over himself - he'd blame it on the legs of the stool, later. Cloud was off the bar stool, bringing Reno upright by the arm he'd caught.
Cloud stepped away once he figured Reno had steady footing. The redhead laughed a little, running fingers through his already-messy hair. "Thanks, Cloud," he said, taking a few more faltering steps. "Uh, shit. I so don't remember having four feet."
All previous thoughts aside, the blonde couldn't help but find Reno's situation amusing. It wasn't everyday someone had gotten themselves so drunk that they didn't know it until the last minute. Cloud closed the gap he'd made between himself and Reno, and took the redhead's arm, slinging it around his shoulder. He then wrapped his arm around Reno's waist, steadying the Turk further.
"Come on, I'll walk you back to the inn," Cloud said into Reno's ear. When Reno tilted his head towards him, giving him a sort of questioning look, Cloud felt the need to respond to that too. "I'd feel bad if I didn't, and besides, it's thanks for the drinks."
Reno nodded his assent, gripping Cloud's shoulder. As the two left the bar side-by-side, they seemed to catch everyone's eye. Cloud ignored their stares, not knowing what was so interesting and certainly not caring at this point, or ever.
The transition between indoors and outdoors made a big difference in Reno's state. The chill air seemed to sober him up quite a bit, at least enough for him to support a little more of his weight. Or so Cloud would've thought. Yet Reno leaned heavily against him anyway as they silently walked towards the inn. The blonde had expected Reno to be a rowdier drunk, judging by his carefree daily attitude, but it seemed that there were very few things about Reno that didn't surprise people.
As Cloud brought Reno into the inn, Reno's hand slipped from his shoulder, his fingertips trailing along his upper arm. The innkeeper sleepily came to life at the sound of footsteps, looking up and tossing a key at Cloud, who caught it deftly. "He already purchased a room," the man said, voice heavy.
Cloud nodded to the man, and Reno was uncharacteristically quiet as they walked to the room number on the key. Cloud handed the key over to Reno, who took it and unlocked the door, managing to fumble only a little. Cloud disentangled himself from Reno, preparing to leave and make the trek all the way back to Tifa's bar.
Cloud glanced back when Reno's hand clasped around his wrist, tugging his arm insistently. "What is it?" the blonde asked in a hushed voice.
Reno shrugged, a slow grin spread across his lips. "It's rude to not see someone inside."
Cloud started to remark otherwise, but he smiled a small smile instead, stepping past Reno into the small room. The blonde knew that it was Reno's way of saying /I'm going to be bored; entertain me/. Cloud realized that Reno always managed to drag him into something; and from prior experience he knew that it was hard to escape the redhead once encountered, but it was in his nature to try anyway.
Slipping his sword sheath off of his back and setting it aside, Cloud closed the door behind him. He sat in a nearby chair, watching with some interest as Reno went about the tiny room, kicking his shoes into one corner, tossing his shirt and jacket into another. Cloud's cheeks flushed a light, carnation pink at Reno's topless state. Reno's skin seemed in perfect contrast of his hair, like the right mix of strawberry and vanilla ice cream.
When Reno finally turned back to Cloud, he couldn't help but tease the ex-SOLDIER about the blush.
"You act like you've never seen me shirtless before," he said offhandedly, as if the topic were nothing but idle talk.
Cloud looked away, his flush growing brighter. "It's not that."
"Is that so?" Reno said, taking steps toward Cloud. He slid onto the blonde's lap, testing how far he could go this time around. He had no threats to make and nothing to prove. When Cloud made no motions to push him away, only shifted so that Reno's weight spread evenly over his thighs, Reno leaned in, brushing his lips against Cloud's.
Cloud responded immediately, catching Reno's lower lip between his teeth to draw him back. Reno slid his tongue into Cloud's mouth, tasting only faint remnants of the beer he'd drank earlier. The battle between them was long and drawn out, with Reno submitting willingly in the end, pulling away from the blonde breathlessly.
"You plan these kinds of things, don't you?" Cloud said mildly, breaking the brief silence that had settled.
"Only the first two times," Reno answered smugly, pressing another kiss to Cloud's lips. "This time it was just my charm."
"Charm," Cloud echoed, raking his fingers through Reno's thin ponytail. "You might be right."
As Reno pressed himself closer to the blonde, dragging Cloud into another fierce kiss, Cloud couldn't help but figure that this was what he was looking for when he'd left everyone behind this morning. As ironic as that seemed to be.