Title: Unnatural
Pairing: Cloud/Barret
Warnings: Slight game spoilers, rampant homophobia, crude talk, etc.
Rating: PG-13 - R?
Summary: Barret, Cloud, and a walk around Golden Saucer.

Sometimes, Barret Wallace wished he had those damned freaky SOLDIER eyes. Those glowing eyes could see in the dark better than a cat's. Cats at least needed a little bit of light to see. Those SOLDIER eyes made their own light. Also, they could see for miles, farther than Barret could ever imagine. What his puny eyes had to squint to see, those SOLDIER eyes could dissect and explore. Even better, when the SOLDIER was pissed, those glowing eyes would shine like stars, burning intensely until everyone had to look away. Several times, Barret had seen the person on the receiving end of those glowing glares piss themselves. Menacing as all fuck, true demonic eyes.

Not that Barret was intimidated. Why should he be intimidated by those damned unnatural eyes?

It was always that thought that reminded Barret why he was perfectly content with his own normal, natural eyes. He didn't need to destroy the Planet to give himself a little extra sight. He didn't need to bleed the Planet like a damned leech. His eyes were perfectly fine human eyes. Why did SOLDIERs need those damned eyes anyway?

Still . . . if he had those damned eyes, maybe he could have burned a nice hole through this door by now.

I can't fuckin' believe I'm doin' this, I can't believe I'm fuckin' doin' this, Barret chanted to himself, willing his eyes to cut through the innocent door. The inn door seemed to mock the weakness of his natural eyes with its survival, and Barret gritted his teeth furiously. When he first approached Cloud Strife's door, the task had seemed far easier. Either Aeris Gainsborough or Tifa Lockhart, beautiful, kind girls both, would be waiting patiently at the door, waiting for the ex-SOLDIER to join them on a date. Barret would walk up, see the girl, realize he couldn't possibly do anything, and be "forced" to leave. That way he wouldn't be chickening out, and he would find out the freak wasn't as freaky as he made himself out to be. But neither Aeris nor Tifa was there–hell, not even Yuffie was there–so Barret stood alone at the door. He supposed Spike had been nasty to Tifa, and the other girls couldn't help but see it. Barret thought about it for a moment and then snorted. He didn't know why he was surprised that Spike would tell a lovely, generous girl like Tifa to "Fuck off!". Most guys would be happy that she was climbing into their lap like that.

Shifting awkwardly, Barret glared suspiciously down the hallway to make sure no one was watching him. No way in hell was anyone gonna catch him dancing like a pansy outside Strife's door. Fortunately, the inn seemed empty. He guessed everyone was checking out the Golden Saucer.

Huffing indignantly, Barret raised his flesh hand to knock on the door. Damn those freaky eyes anyway! Spike wasn't that tough! He might have tricked the other members of AVALANCHE with his tough guy act, but Barret had seen the jagged edges hidden within that unnatural glow. It reminded him of thin ice, like he hadn't seen since he was a little kid. One step and everything would shatter. No real tough guy had eyes like that.

Just tough enough to lead us. Barret sighed and lowered his fist again. Dammit! What was the big deal with this? Strife was just some damn pretty boy! How could a pretty boy affect so many people? He didn't seem like much. Barret had laughed in Tifa's face when she had introduced her childhood friend, calling him an ex-SOLDIER. Strife had been--was still--so fuckin' tiny! Hell, his own sword was bigger than he was!

But . . . Spike still led them, despite his initial protests against joining a group. That huge honkin' sword of his cut down many monsters, protecting AVALANCHE like the leader he had been elected to be.

With a low snarl, Barret raised his chin, again, raising his hand. It didn't fuckin' matter. He refused to be intimidated by some–

"Ack!" On the other side of the now open door, Strife blinked at him. Frozen, Barret stared back. Unable to breathe, Barret's wide eyes gazed at the giant, cold steel pressed against his throat. Fuck being bigger than him, Barret thought dazedly, still staring at Strife's confused face. That damned sword is bigger than the door!

"Oh . . . sorry, Barret." Still holding his breath, Barret watched as Strife slowly lowered the massive blade. The younger man lightly lowered the tip of the blade to the floor and leaned against the doorframe. A single blond eyebrow raised as Strife took in Barret's stunned face. "I saw a shadow under the door," the ex-SOLDIER explained. His large gloves played restlessly with the sword's handle as he talked. "It didn't move for a while, so I got nervous." With careless grace, Strife sheathed the giant sword. "Come inside. I was just relaxing."

Why the fuck does a guy that size need a sword that fuckin' big? Barret swore to himself. Finally allowing himself to breathe, he stood up straight. Strife's pale brow wrinkled in confusion as Barret simply stared at him for a long moment, but the man had just held a sword to his throat, so Barret didn't give a flyin' fuck about Strife's discomfort. Unnatural, the large man decided, noting how Strife's slender frame didn't even buckle at the heavy weight on his back. For hours and hours of travel, Strife easily carried that massive sword on his back, never breaking a sweat, never flinching. It unnerved Barret. Someone that size shouldn't have that much power. Someone who looked like they should shatter with one good punch shouldn't be able to wield a sword heavier than three of their party members. Faintly glowing blue eyes stared questioningly at Barret, and Barret glared back. SOLDIER, ex-SOLDIER, still a creature with Mako flowing through his veins.

Unnatural, Barret repeated to himself. Unnatural.

"Barret?" Strife inquired, cocking his blond head to one side. A rebellious spike fell over one glowing blue eye. Sunlight streaking through a summer sky, Barret recalled Tifa sighing to Aeris. Natural blond, he also remembered, as Tifa had often showed pictures of her hometown and the people there after they had formed AVALANCHE. Much shorter than it used to be . . .

Arrogant punk, Barret snarled to himself.

"I want to go for a walk," he said abruptly.

Strife blinked slowly at him. "Um . . . just the two of us?"

Smartass! Barret glared at him. "Come on! Now! Or do you think you're too fuckin' good to hang out wi' me?"

Another slow blink. An oddly innocent movement on a killer's face. But of course, one would never know by looking into that young, delicate-looking face that Strife was an ex-SOLDIER, currently the leader of a rebel group. A pretty boy trying to be macho. Barret hated it.

Finally, Strife shrugged carelessly and stepped away from the doorframe. "If you really want." Shifting his sword for a moment and fishing a key out of some unknown pocket, Strife locked the inn door and slipped past Barret in the hallway. Refusing to meet those wary, freaky eyes, Barret stomped down the hallway. Judging by the heavy thunk of Strife's boots, the younger man was following, albeit at a slower pace. The little shit may have been chosen to be leader, Barret thought savagely, hurrying his steps, but he's not the boss of me!

Not once did Strife say a word as Barret wandered aimlessly through the Golden Saucer. Barret barely watched where he was going, keeping one eye on the petite blond the whole way. Despite Barret's speed and longer legs, Strife easily kept pace. No sign of exertion showed on the pale, smooth face. Only an odd caution and Barret struggled not to let those wary blue eyes catch sight of his own stare.

Why the hell isn't he with Aeris or Tifa? he wondered. Fuck, why not even Yuffie! None of 'em would mind. He had to turn his head swiftly to avoid those sharp blue eyes . . . and also an inconveniently place pole. Who the fuck would put something like that in the middle of a hall, anyway? Shaking his head roughly, Barret peeked again at the fine-featured face. What was a pretty boy like him doin' in SOLDIER, anyway? Fuck it, I don't care! Fuck hi–it! Fuck it! Still no exertion showed on Strife's face, and Barret scowled. Probably all that shit they put into SOLDIERs' bloodstream. Good chunk of the Planet is probably in there.

Strife's eyes narrowed, and he took a step to the right. It took Barret a moment to realize he was grumbling aloud. Even when he quieted, Strife made no move to approach him. Like he never occasionally complained about his companions.

Abruptly, Strife stiffened beside him. Barret blinked and pulled his focus away from the ex-SOLDIER to see a stranger running up to him. Even as he cursed to himself at his lack of attention, he shifted his gun-arm. If nothing else came out of this, at least he could have some stress relief. His dark eyes glittered at the thought.

"Congratulations!" the man exclaimed, startling them both. "You're the 100th couple–" The man trailed off as he took note of the two death glares burning into him. "Ah. Um, you're not a– Right. I see that. Well, continue on." Taking several unsteady steps back, the man gestured frantically. For the first time, Barret noticed what part of the Golden Saucer they were in. What was it called? Event Square. Right. Never going there again. "Please, ah, leave. We're waiting for a couple to help–" He choked off again and waved vaguely.

Barret did not look at Strife. Shoulders back and head high, he did not look at Strife. Reluctantly lowering his gun-arm, he walked stiffly away from the now shivering man. After a moment, he heard the slow thunk of boots resume behind him.

"Too bad," Strife commented wistfully. "I would have liked to see the play."

He was not looking at Strife!

Clearing his throat, Barret studied the walls, waiting for the footsteps to come a little closer. "Come on," he ordered gruffly. "We need to go where we can talk in private."

Strife simply grunted in agreement beside him. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Strife still had yet to move closer to him. He wondered absently what exactly he had been mumbling earlier and how well Strife could actually hear. Damn drugs. Humans weren't supposed to hear that damned well.

Strife took another step away. Ah. Grumbling again. Aw, fuck hi–it, anyway.

"Come on!" he barked. He marched away, Strife still warily following him. Fuckin' pu– Whatever.


Barret really fuckin' hated his life sometimes. As the gondola slowly circled the Golden Saucer, the sickeningly romantic music seared his eardrums and his pride. Dark eyes glared out the gondola window, studiously avoiding Strife's stiff form across from him. He just wanted a fuckin' tour of the place. Did Strife have a problem with that? It wasn't his fuckin' fault they played this pussy music. Oddly humiliated by Strife's careful nonchalance, Barret bared his teeth, audibly snarling. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Strife's hand edge cautiously towards his belt. What the fuck did that little punk think he was–

He saw a flash of metal. Barret snarled to himself and slumped in the seat. Punk.

The music droned on. Desperate to distract himself and the blond finally cornered where he couldn't glare and stalk off, Barret blurted out, "Why aren't you with Tifa or Aeris? They wou' love to have your skinny ass." Barret refused to look at Strife, even as the silence grew ominous on that side of the gondola. Vivid blue light reflected from the inside of the gondola, shining on the metal. "Fuck, why not even Yuffie? She watches you like a cat in heat. You have your pick from any of them. Even someone as fucked up as you shou' know a good thing when he sees it."

Those damn SOLDIER eyes. Barret's heart pounded in his chest, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Strife remained silent in the other seat. Palm sweating, Barret frantically ignored the electric blue tinge in the small cabin. It haunted his days enough.

"Stay the fuck away from Marlene!" Barret shouted, sweat dripping down the back of his shirt. Why was it so hot! Shifting desperately in his seat, Barret glared at the flashing lights outside the window. Why was that blasted music so loud! "You better not even touch Marlene! Go after one of the other girls! They'd all spread their legs for ya! I don't care how fucked up you are; you'd better take what's available!"

The sapphire sheen faded from the inside of the gondola. Barret chanced a glance at Strife, and vivid white teeth greeted him, Strife's lips parted in shock. Chin high and his own eyes flashing, Barret tore his gaze away from the small SOLDIER and stared out the window. The music seemed even louder than before in the strained silence.

"I miss Marlene," he said abruptly, hating the burn in his cheeks. "She's a good girl, a smart girl. The smartest! She would really like it here. She's never seen fireworks. She'd like the fireworks." Was Strife edging away from him again? Well, fuck hi–it, anyway! Fuck it! "This is so fuckin' stupid! Everythin's so fuckin' stupid!" Yep, Strife was edging away from him. Flushed and confused and angry, Barret bared his teeth at the fireworks. "Everything . . . everything . . . dammit!" The fireworks–Marlene would love the fireworks–blazed, and the music rang painfully in Barret's ears. He clenched his fist, furiously ignoring Strife's hesitant gaze. "Shut the hell up!" Barret roared at the blaring music. Blood pumping wildly through his veins, he stood up and leveled his gun arm out the window. The angry blasts of his gun did nothing to soothe him as he fired out the window, the screams and dives from the music technicians not cheering him like he hoped they would. However, to his great relief, the music silenced. Even more bewildered than before, Barret plopped back into his chair and stared out the window. He never heard a noise from the other passenger in the gondola.

When the gondola finally stopped and Strife stepped off with SOLDIER grace, Barret realized he had never taken a deep breath the whole ride. Strife looked the other way as Barret panted softly.

"Is that what you needed to tell me 'in private'?" Strife questioned with deceptive softness. His flush returning, Barret glared at Strife, but his fierce gaze was no match for the unnatural glow of Strife's eyes. Strife only needed to look into Barret's eyes for a moment before Barret looked away. "To ask why I wasn't fucking the first available female, ignoring the fact that they are our teammates, and warning my perverted hands away from your young daughter? Do I strike you as a pedophile, Wallace?"

Barret clenched his fist. That was the first time since they left Midgar that Strife had called him that.

Strife stared at him with those freaky eyes. Arrogant punk, Barret reminded himself. Unnatural punk. I-I know what I'm fuckin' doin'!

Strife lifted his upper lip slightly, baring too-white teeth. They glowed almost as brightly as his eyes. Unnatural! Just like the rest of 'em SOLDIERs! Just like the rest of ShinRa's army!

"We're going to get an early start in the morning," Strife continued curtly. "If you have sex on the brain so much, I'm sure there's plenty of people here who can help assuage that. Just don't stay up all night doing it."

Barret shook with emotion. He guessed it was rage. Or humiliation.

I had ever' right to say that! he argued with himself. I'm not keepin' quiet just to keep that freak happy!

Staring rebelliously at the wall, Barret waited to hear those large boots walk away. They didn't.

"Everyone misses someone, Barret," that soft voice arose again. Something inside Barret trembled at the sound of it. "Everyone knows you miss your daughter." Out of the corner of his eye, Barret saw a flash of gold. He turned his head slightly. Strife had tilted his head. "But that wasn't the reason for you calling me out tonight, was it?"

Barret shook his head frantically, barely able to hear Strife over the pounding of his own heart. What the hell– What the hell was the fuck going on about now?

Before Barret could step away, his back collided hard with a wall. The breath exploded from his lungs. Eyes wide and chest heaving, Barret could only stare at Strife's scowling face. He had never even seen the younger man move!

"I know your ilk, Wallace," Strife hissed. "Think those little thoughts running through your mind are unique? Guess again. A dime a dozen in SOLDIER. It must be hell for your homophobic little consciousness to deal with a pretty boy like me leading you, huh? Afraid to take orders from me? Am I standing a little close? Are you afraid you might not be quite meeting my eyes or staring into my eyes too long? Am I upsetting your fucking heterosexual ideals? Holy hell, a pretty boy not fucking pussy when it offers. Must be a fag. And if I'm a fag, I'm weak. Am I anywhere close, Wallace?"

Barret choked on his own breath. He didn't answer.

Strife moved closer. "Better yet," Barret could taste Strife's breath: strawberries and cream, "are you afraid I'm going to try something? Afraid," Strife stood on his tiptoes, "you might like it?"

Barret shuddered. His body burned everywhere Strife touched him. So hot, too hot. Must be a SOLDIER thing, Barret rationalized frantically. Hotter than normal humans. Hotter . . . hotter . . . He refused to think of why he wasn't pushing Strife away. By his small smirk, Strife had noted that, too.

"Perhaps," Strife breathed, Barret tasting his words, "perhaps you're like the other SOLDIERs. A pretty boy is no different than a pretty girl. And as long as you're in the right positions at the right time, you're not a fag. Am I anywhere close . . . " Their lips were less than an inch apart. "Barret?"

Barret closed his eyes. Strawberries and cream . . . strawberries and cream. . . .

Then the heat was gone. Startled, Barret's dark eyes flew open to meet Strife's disgusted face. The younger man stood on the other side of the hallway. When. . . ?

"I suggest you get your personal hang-ups in check, Barret," Strife suggested coolly. "We have a long way ahead of us." Again, Strife turned on his heel. "Good night," he tossed over his shoulder. And then he was gone.

Barret stared blankly at where Strife previously stood. Lost and suddenly cold, Barret threw his head back. "FUCK!"