Barret angsts in Costa Del Sol. Cloud returns. Also, use #45 for mako eyes: seduction.
They all went their own way, but it wasn't broken like the pieces of the upper plate, just different. Well, Barret didn't do long goodbyes, so half the people he had fought alongside and saved countless times were gone before he even got to give them his best angry face, the goddamn ungrateful brats, and Yuffie had made off with some of his gear. He didn't know what happened to the stupid robot and there was red fur he kept getting on his clothes for weeks afterwards-not even Tifa's lint brushes could help. Vincent was gone like smoke and Cloud wandered out one afternoon and didn't come back, and it pissed him the hell off how Marlene kept asking him when's Cloud coming back, Papa? and damn if Barret wasn't going to hammer that runt in the head when he got back from wherever he had gotten to for making his girl cry like that. Cid hung around long enough to drag him and Tifa to Costa Del Sol, the only three still left, and Barret thought it was a good enough excuse to give Marlene a break, too.
It was hot there, blistering sun baking down on all the people who lived and vacationed and thought lying on the sand to roast was a good idea. He had never pegged Cid as a man to like vacationing, but he pulled off the straw hat well, even though Barret imagined it was because he spent the majority of the vacation plastered out of his damn mind, making lewd suggestions to Tifa and not even realizing Marlene had plopped it on his fool head. Marlene would giggle and if Barret didn't have such a piss poor vocabulary to begin with, he might have said something, but as it was he just let it slide, too tired to really care he was letting the foul-mouth pilot ruin his daughter's mind, as if the whole situation hadn't done so already.
They were three days into the vacation none of them had given a time limit to when Cloud showed back up. It was five in the afternoon and Barret was sitting at one of the bars off the beach where he could just see Tifa and Marlene splashing in the water, figuring he deserved one night to get slap-ass drunk for being put out and saving the world. He was an eco-terrorist, goddamnit, and he still couldn't quite figure out how in the hell he had ended up here, savior of the fucking world when everything still felt wrong.
Cloud just sat down beside him as if he belonged there and ordered a drink. Barret gave him the eye. He was already pretty buzzed and didn't want to ruin it by getting mad and breaking a chair in public. It could wait.
"So, where the hell have you been?"
Cloud shrugged. "Had things I needed to do."
Barret snorted. "Like screw off god knows where with no word to a goddamn soul?"
"Did you worry?" And damn if Cloud didn't make eyes at him, and wasn't that half the problem right there? Barret turned back to his drink with a grunt and decided it was either his imagination that had Cloud flirting with him ever since the kid had figured himself out (/mostly/, Tifa had confided to Barret later, he's mostly got himself figured out and Barret had raved, /how the fuck is he gonna know when he's figured out? He's one crazy fucker, you're gonna trust him!?/) or else he was insane and it showed just how stressed out Barret was that he couldn't tell which it was.
"Marlene missed you, asshole," was the best reply he could come up with now that his head was reeling again with the possibility that a half-insane mako monster was flirting with him. He had thought after the gun-arm life couldn't get anymore surreal. He had been wrong.
"What the hell could be more important than the people who saved your skinny ass a hundred damn times?" Barret demanded, feeling put-out and other feelings that had big words to go along with them that he couldn't possibly think of while half-drunk and feeling like he was being undressed with mako eyes as Cloud watched him calmly.
"I needed some time," Cloud said carefully, looking away and sipping his drink, which was almost as girly as his outfit.
"We-you little bastard, Tifa and Marlene were worried! Don't know why they'd put up the effort to worry about your sorry ass, myself, but damn! Could've said something," Barret huffed and he never huffed, huffing was for Vincent when Yuffie put her hands where they weren't supposed to go, and Barret had told her and told her not to try and steal from the man with the crazy ass claw.
"So you were worried," Cloud sounded different somehow. "Drowning your sorrows in beer?"
Barret waved his gun-arm around, and barely registered the fact that the bartender was looking extra nervous. "Hell no! I'm on vacation. What you doing here, anyway? Shouldn't you still be off finding yourself or whatever it was that you were doing?"
Cloud just shook his head and stood, and it made Barret want to give him a solid knock to the face and maybe something else that he damn well wasn't going to think about. He didn't do hugging with anyone but his girl and maybe Tifa, because she was /Tifa/.
"Where the hell you going?" he demanded as Cloud walked away. "You better not be running off again," he warned, and he was almost proud he managed to sound pissed and totally not concerned all at the same time, and would never admit he maybe felt a little panic that Cloud would just up and disappear again, with no by-your-leave.
"Actually, I was going to go to the beach," he said, turning around and holding up a straw hat that looked a lot like Cid's. Barret finally noticed that Cloud was wearing the most god-awful ugly neon orange swimming shorts and an equally bad green Costa Del Sol shirt from the shop down the street. Barret wasn't sure how he had missed it, considering the kid was blinding him now.
"You not leaving?" Barret asked. "Sure about that?"
Cloud didn't do smiles, Barret knew that much, so what he got was a not-smile but amused eyes. "I'm done with what I needed to do," he said. "You don't care if I stay, do you?"
"Why would I care?!" Barret demanded. "Just no more runnin' off on some crazy journey to find your inner self without lettin' us know! You get to go to Marlene's tea parties for a month, you little ass."
"Good," Cloud said. "I guess I can room with you while we're here, right?" He nodded, as if Barret had given him the okay already and left the bar. Barret floundered for a second before heading after him, leaving his drink on the bar.
"Cloud, wait just a damn minute! Who the hell said that was an option!? You're a cover hog!" He didn't even feel a little embarrassed screaming that fact out for all the people lounging around to hear, even though some old stuffy hags look horrified as he stormed by, following the path Cloud had taken. He was fast when he wanted to be, faster yet when he was making a decision he knew Barret would disagree with. He was crazy as anything, but the kid was crafty. That's a word Yuffie had used: /crafty/. Barret would be damned if he didn't think the blonde punk had gotten some of it from Yuffie herself, just to spite all of them for when she couldn't be around.
He didn't catch up to Cloud until he was already on the beach, twirling a soggy Marlene up in his arms. It was maybe the sixth item on the mental list Barret had been keeping since meeting the kid that had him catching himself before railing at the kid, because he couldn't very well scream at Cloud while he was being /caring/. Tifa would have his hide and he wouldn't upset Marlene for anything.
"Papa! Look, Cloud is back!" Marlene said happily, looking like a little crab, already pinking from the sun and lack of proper sunscreen. Tifa was laughing beside Cid who was passed out cold on the lounge chair he had been sitting in, eyes bright with tears he knew she wouldn't cry. Out of all of them, she had been the one who had pardoned Cloud's being gone like he didn't give a shit about anything, so Barret knew it would be up to him to teach the little bastard a lesson about family later, because obviously no one else was gonna do it the right way.
It gave him pause/, and nothing ever gave him pause, pauses were for Mr. Furry when he was about to talk with his important voice. He watched Cloud smearing sunscreen over Marlene's nose and doing his laughing-but-not-really-laughing thing at Cid's snores. Barret didn't know when the hell it had started, this /family thing, but he didn't know if he liked the idea of Cloud being all up in it, mattering to Marlene so she'd be all hurt and shit when he took off on a jaunt to discover his inner child or whatever the next excuse would be. He glared hard at Cloud for a minute but it was taking longer and longer to get the angry look to work on anyone around him anymore. He was losing his touch.
"If you're gonna drown her in it, you might as well wear some yourself," Barret grouched as he sat on a chair beside Tifa. She just smiled at him, looking happier, even though she hadn't really been looking all that unhappy the last few days. He frowned at her and she smiled wider.
Cloud was already sandy and covered in the white goo as Marlene popped up and went running back toward the water, calling Cloud's name. Barret hadn't seen Cloud relax even /once/, so this person in front of him was strange, all pale skin and funky hair and fucking ugly clothes. He just stared and hell no, he wasn't shocked that the wacko knew how to relax. Cloud stood and shook the sand off and held the bottle of sunscreen out to him.
"You should wear some, too," Cloud said, and looked big-eyed and way too innocent for what came out of his mouth next. "Want me to help you put it on?"
Barret just sputtered at him, all the angry words he had failing him. Cloud shrugged and gave him another not-smile, dropping it on the towel below him as he turned toward the water. Tifa was laughing so hard she was practically falling off her chair, and he had no come back at all, and it was hot out here, damnit. Tifa recovered as they watched Cloud and Marlene head into the water, splashing each other. She nudged Barret's leg with her foot.
"What?" he asked gruffly. "Kid's a menace, showing back up like he hadn't made everyone worry and lecturing us on how to take care! Little ass."
"It's sweet you missed each other," Tifa said, grinning and following Cloud and Marlene out, leaving Barret on the beach beside a drunk, passed-out pilot who was mumbling about boobs in his sleep.
"Spiky-headed little punk," Barret said as he watched them, and maybe, he thought to himself, he was sort of glad to see Cloud, after all.
Word Count: 2,034
Feedback: All reviews, squees, and concrit are hugged close to Renay's heart.
Author's Notes: For firefly99, for the drabble meme on my livejournal.