"Making Me Hate You"
"What do you mean gay?"
"Gay. I mean like gay gay. Like, 'hey, I'm a dude who likes guys' gay, not 'hey, look at me, I'm so happy' gay." Reno took another sip of his beer.
I stared at him, trying to make sense of this. "Reno… Superman's not gay."
"Dude…" His eyebrows shot up. "He totally is! I mean look at all the signs: the clean cut hair, the shaved face, the uptight demeanor and preppy look. Oh…" He took another sip. "…and let's not forget that disturbing costume and those tight spandex, not to mention that obviously gay looking underwear he wears over top. Coincidence? I think not."
I sighed in frustration. "Reno, he has Lois. He likes girls, man."
"No," he pointed out sternly. "That's just a cover-up because he's still too afraid to come out of the closet. You know, for the Man of Steel, he sure doesn't live up to his moniker. What a hypocrite, claiming to be all brave and shit."
I rolled my eyes. "Okay… Reno. I think you've had enough beer now. How the hell did you get in here anyways? Weren't you just carried off the field a couple of hours ago?" Seriously? How the hell did he manage to get inside the after-game party inside the school's gymnasium? Weren't any security looking for him?
"I have my ways. The tactical man never gives away his secrets." Reno smirked and the next several seconds seemed to be a blur as he unexpectedly poured the remaining cup of beer over his head, gave it a good shake, and ripped off his pink button shirt. He then quickly grabbed a nearby unsuspecting girl and gave her a deep French kiss before being pushed off and slapped across the face.
"What the hell, asshole?" she screeched, wiping her lips in disgust.
The guy she was with, presumably her boyfriend, immediately tossed his beverage to the side and lunged at Reno, who expertly dodged the tackle and began to take off through the crowd towards the exit, one furious boyfriend trailing.
Having sadly grown accustomed to this, I just took another sip of my beer and casually walked away while everyone else stared on in shock.
For a guy who'd just won the game earlier, I was keeping a relatively low profile by staying off in the corners of the gym, avoiding the more crowded areas.
I caught a glimpse of Yuffie giggling with an arm around Loz as he chatted up with several teammates and others I didn't recognize. She turned to look at me and I quickly looked away, moving out of her sight.
"Know what the strangest thing is?" Biggs said, with his girlfriend Jessie by his side.
I shrugged. "What?"
"Where's Seph?" His head turned everywhere in search of the silver haired quarterback but he found nothing. "Weird, huh? Where the hell'd he go? Wasn't even there for the fucking post game interview."
"Biggs!" Jessie smacked his chest. "Watch your mouth."
"Sorry." He looked at me. "I mean, did you see Barret? Man, was he pissed. He's definitely gonna let him hear it when he sees him. You don't just go taking off like that after the game."
"Especially when you're Safer Sephiroth," I added.
"Especially when you're Safer Sephiroth," he repeated, nodding in agreement.
It was weird, I had to admit. After the game ended, 90 percent of the talk revolved around Sephiroth's uncharacteristic vanishing act as opposed to the actual victory that had taken place on the field. The media made such a big fuss about it that Barret had to eventually make up a lie about him not feeling well to explain his uncharacteristic absence. But like Biggs said, the big man been pissed himself and in the locker room he'd been so furious not even Loz dared to crack a joke.
Ultimately, it begged the question: why would the game MVP just walk off the field like that?
"Hey, so, um, where's your girlfriend?" Jessie asked me, interrupting my thought train. "You have a girlfriend, right?"
"Huh?" I said. "Oh, you mean Aerith?"
"Is that her name?"
"So where is she?"
I glanced around. "She said she'd be here later. Had something to do or whatever."
"Cool," Jessie said with a smile. "Is she pretty?"
"Yeah, dude, does she have big tits like Jess here?" Biggs added shamelessly before getting smacked hard in the back of the head.
I sat in the corner at an empty table watching people conversing, laughing, eating, dancing, doing whatever.
It was nice to have a moment alone for the time being because the past few hours had been completely hectic following the win.
First, it'd been the huge on-field celebration and then the insane hordes of cameramen and people shoving microphones in my face, giving me literally no room to maneuver my neck.
There'd been questions about everything. Questions about my performance. Questions about our team. Questions about the other team. Questions about my sudden emergence. Questions about how it felt to play against my brother. Questions about Sephiroth. Questions about Rude, even about Reno. Questions about my soldier size even. (Okay, I made that last part up. Sorry). Then, just when I thought it'd all ended, after the showers and post-game meeting with our whole team, I had to do it all over again in a press conference room, answering pretty much the same questions over and over again.
It was at that moment, that for the first time, I realized just how scary it could be when you're in the public eye and your entire individual freedom is stripped from you as you're placed under intense scrutiny.
For that brief moment, I understood perhaps why Sephiroth had taken off like that at the end. He didn't want to be a part of that scrutiny. He'd already been through it a million times before. For me, just experiencing it once was enough. My eyes were still literally seeing stars from the excessive flashing of cameras earlier.
So here I was now, sitting here, minding my own business, just enjoying the accomplishments without any of the hassle. I was reveling in it all and it felt damn nice.
I bet this is how it felt when that first dude climbed Mount Everest. That great feeling of achieving something truly extraordinary. What was his name again?
'I think it was Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.'
'What the hell is a Tenzing Norgay?'
'God, you're an idiot.'
My balls itch. I repeat: my balls itch.
Hey, it's not like your balls need a reason to start itching!
Seriously, I bet most of you ladies right about now reading this are wondering what the hell I'm talking about but for you guys, I'm sure you can relate and are all probably nodding right about now. Am I right? Am I right?
It's like when you're playing a game of baseball and you're standing out there in the outfield, waiting for a pop fly when BAM, all of a sudden, you feel the itch unsuspectingly creep up on you. Hey, it's happened to us all. There's a reason why you see baseball players from time to time stand around and shift their weight, scratching at their crotch. It isn't a laughing matter!
'You're disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. Just die already.'
Don't hate the truth. Or hey, here's another:
Ladies, you've heard about how it's not a good idea for guys to cross one leg over another while sitting down. You know why, right?
'So you don't get called out on what a douche you look like sitting like that?'
No, the reason we don't cross our legs is because it cuts off blood circulation down below and so we just know out of good health practice and common sense not to do something so stupid. But… (and here's where the 'but' comes into play) sometimes, during those emergency moments when you're really in need of scratching and suppressing the itch and you've got way too many people around to notice just how much of a pervert you are if you actually attempt to do so, you gotta find more discreet ways to go on about it.
So what can we as males do then in this case? Well it's simple. We use that forbidden leg crossing technique to scratch the area below without ever actually having to touch it. It's been proven and it works. I call it the scissor caress.
'The what? Scissor caress? Did you get hit in the head during the football game and suffer further brain damage?'
I am now sitting with my legs crossed and a big, satisfied grin on my face.
Itch: gone. Me: happy and relieved.
Score one for the scissor caress.
'Please stop calling it that.'
"Cloud Strife. What a game kiddo. You defi-" Cid Highwind stopped cold in his tracks. "What the fuck are you doing? Uncross your legs now."
I quickly did, turning mildly red in the process. He gave me a strange look before hesitantly taking a seat beside me.
"Um, hello, sir." I nodded. "You catch the game?"
After a few more seconds of hard glaring, he grinned. "Oh, you bet. It was money. Start to end." He chugged down some beer. I looked on as he let out a small burp and grinned. "Just call me Cid when we're not in class. No need to be so formal. Besides, sir makes me feel old and I'm still kickin' it. I don't wanna feel old. You hear me?"
"Yes, sir." Shit!
His blue eyes went cold for a second. "Don't make me fail you."
He grinned again. "I'm just teasing you, Strife. Good game, son." He stood up and slapped me hard across the back (like child abuse hard), nearly knocking me off my chair. "Enjoy the rest of the party." He finished the rest of his beer and mock saluted before walking back into the crowd, but not before staring down a young student who hadn't bothered to give him easy passage.
"So you just gonna sit there all night in your little corner, all-star?"
I looked up with a frown. "Rufus. What're you doing here?"
He smirked, a cup of beer in hand as he stood a few feet in front. He shrugged his shoulders innocently. "Me? Just enjoying the party like the rest of these folks here. Why? Something wrong?" He clicked his tongue and his smirk widened, becoming more malicious.
"All right, so enjoy it." I looked away in irritation, trying to ignore him, but he remained rooted to his spot. When I realized that he wasn't gonna go away I glared back up at him with a frown. "What?"
He shrugged again. "Nothing. Hey, where's your… girlfriend?" He said the last word in such a condescending manner.
Stay cool, Cloud. Don't let him get to you. "Not here yet. She will be soon."
"Where's she at?"
"Don't know. She said she had some stuff to take care of." I looked away once more, trying my best to hide my annoyance.
"Tsk, tsk." He clicked his tongue a second time. "A girlfriend that doesn't tell you what she's doing and isn't here for her boyfriend's big night." He edged a little closer, his smirk further widening and now taking the appearance of a sneer. "Now what kind of girlfriend is that?"
I wanted to get up, right then and there, and clock his pretty boy face. Then we'd see how much Tifa adored him afterwards.
"Dunno." I shrugged, trying to appear as nonchalant as possible. "So where's Tifa? She didn't come tonight?"
His smile never faded. "Oh, she's here, don't worry about her. She's just chatting with some of her friends around the area. Doesn't get to see them often all at one place. Wait till you see her. I'm sure you'll like her dress."
That's it. I was about to seriously just go through with kicking his ass.
'Or in more correct terms: attempting to kick his ass before failing miserably and getting embarrassed in front of everybody like a little pussy.'
"What's up, Rufus? If there's something you've gotta say, just come out and say it. Don't beat around the bush."
"What do you mean?" he said, acting all coy.
I stood up, finding a new confidence, and came within inches of his face. "If you got something to say, say it to my face."
His eyes sparkled for a moment and his wide smirk vanished. All our surroundings seemed to die down and fade in the distance as he swallowed once and said, "Just thought…" He licked his lips slowly. "…You know, that I'd ask what it felt like to be coddled by big brother and his friends. Must be nice, huh? Him looking out for you like that?"
I pulled back slightly and blinked in confusion. "Coddled? Coddled what?" I shook my head. "What the hell are you talking about?"
His eyes widened in mock surprise as he brought up a hand to cover his open mouth. "Oh, what's that? You mean you didn't know?"
"Know-" I paused out of frustration. "Like I said, if you got something to say, come out with it."
"I thought that they already told you."
"Told me what?" I snarled, my facing coming closer to his again. After a few seconds of back and forth glaring, I grunted and shook my head. "You know what, forget it. I don't care." I began to make my way past him before his hand came down on my shoulder. My eyes burned with rage. "Take your hand off me."
He brought his lips close to my ear. "I was just wondering what it was like to have your brother and the others on the team buy you a spot on the roster. Must be nice not to have to work for it, huh?" He pulled away and winked, flashing a wicked smile.
I swallowed once. Hard. Then I registered the words. "Buy? The fuck you mean 'buy'?"
"Buy," he repeated. "Like as in purchase or reserve. Exactly what I mean. Figure it the fuck out, Strife. You're a smart boy."
Breathing heavily, I glanced down at the floor in thought before looking back up. "Buy? Th-wait, who? Zack?" What. The. Hell. Was. Going. On? I didn't believe this. Wait, what was happening all of a sudden? What did he mean?
He kept watching me with that sly smirk of his. "I'm friends with Rude and Tseng on your brother's team. Apparently, Sephiroth got you a spot on this club as a favor to Zack, since the two of them are oh ever so close." With that, his lips curved back up further into that wicked, sinister sneer from before. "What? Did you actually think you made the team all by yourself? I mean, come on…" He chuckled. "Didn't it all appear a little too suspicious to you from the start? Me, too."
"You're bullshitting," I fired back.
"Am I?" He raised an eyebrow in question.
I felt cold-that same uncomfortable chill creeping throughout my body, sapping all the warmth away. Rubbing my head in frustration, I brushed past him and into the crowd, looking for a familiar face on the team as my heart rate started to accelerate.
I kept navigating my way through until I spotted Biggs and Jessie... along with a stunning looking Tifa wearing an amazing blue dress deep in a conversation.
I couldn't (wouldn't) deal with her right now. Not in this state. Not after what I'd just heard. But it was too late. She spotted me. They all spotted me. Tifa's eyes lit up instantly and she waved me over.
"Cloud! Hey!" She smiled that radiant smile of hers. Any other time I would've loved it, but now I just felt sick. "I've been looking everywhere for you. Come over here!"
Determined to get on with my goal, I coldly turned my back on her and lost myself in the crowd once more.
I finally found someone familiar and walked up to him and the group of people he was talking to.
"Wedge," I called, marching straight up.
He turned to look at me and smiled. "Hey. Sup, man? Having a good time?" He brought out a fist for me to bump but when I just gave an angry shake of my head he asked, "Hey, something wrong, buddy? What happened?"
"Tell me the truth." My frown disappeared as a pleading look surfaced. "Did Sephiroth ask to have me on the team?"
His expression immediately changed. He began rubbing a chubby hand over the back of his neck as he looked around uneasily. "Yo, I don't really know anythin-"
It was all I needed to see as I angrily walked away in search of the one person who could probably answer that question.
Yuffie spotted me first and quickly took unlatched herself from Loz. "Cloud, listen, I really wanna talk to y-"
"Not now, Yuffie," I practically barked, making it clear that I was in the Seriously-Don't-Fucking-Piss-Cloud-Off-Right-Now mode.
Venturing up to Loz, he raised an eyebrow in question and brought both hands up defensively. "Look, man…" he began calmly. "It's not what you think. We both like eac-"
"Is it true that my spot on the team was handed to me by Sephiroth as a favor to Zack?"
The words seemed to take a few seconds to sink in but when they did, he slowly brought his hands down as a grim expression settled across his face. Blinking and swallowing several times, he let out a careful breath. "Where'd you hear that?"
"Is it true?" I asked more sharply, inching closer.
He looked away, first to stare at Yuffie helplessly (who appeared just as confused as I was), before he peered out across the crowd. When his eyes finally met mine again he asked, "Does it matter?"
I shook my head in contempt. "Fffffuck you," I hissed, still shaking my head. "Fuck you." I spat a second time, much more audibly. "Goddamnit, fuck all of you!" It hurt so much right now.
"Cloud," Yuffie began, reaching for my shoulder. "Wh-"
Turning around, I angrily swatted her hand away and moved towards the exit, never bothering to look back, even when I heard Yuffie scream at Loz, asking him to explain what the hell had just happened.
I sat on my bed, my face in my hands as my phone lay beside me.
I wanted to call him so bad and just yell at him, let him have it all for pulling a stunt like this. I wanted to but I couldn't. I couldn't because I was scared that in my current state, I'd say something that I'd really regret later on.
So for the time being, I was doing my best to calm the rage, a rage that turned to sudden anxiousness when I heard a knock on my door.
Aerith. It had to be. Seeing her would brighten up this shitty night. She would be a breath of fresh air and I really needed that at the moment since there was no one else besides my girlfriend that I could talk to.
I opened the door and my heart leapt up to my throat. It wasn't Aerith, but Tifa, and she had a concerned look and her hands on her hips.
"There you are. I've been looking everywhere for you."
I swallowed. "Wh-what're you doing here?" She was definitely one of the last people I expected at the moment, especially with Rufus loose.
"Are you all right?" She frowned, her chocolate appearing concerned. "You just walked away from me and then when I tried to come find you I saw you yelling at that big silver haired guy before storming away. What happened?"
"I'm fine," I lied, forcing a weak smile. "Really. You seriously worry way too much. Where's Rufus? Shouldn't you be with him right now?"
She frowned further. "We're not talking about Rufus right now. We're talking about you. And no, you're not fine. I told you before you're not a good actor or liar."
"Whatever," I grunted with a shrug.
She took a step towards me but when I reacted by taking a similar step back she stopped. Then, before I knew it, she brought her hand up and caressed my cheek. Any other time I would've been absolutely overjoyed at having her touch me, but now her gentle caress felt like a painful burn instead. I couldn't stand it so I brought her hand down. "What's going on with you?" she asked with sad eyes. Talk to me. Cloud?" She reached for my cheek again. "Talk to me."
Just then and there, we both heard someone clear their throat before asking, "Um… hey… Am I... Am I interrupting anything?" Aerith took a hesitant step forward in the hallway, stopping short of us.
Boy, did I ever feel like an idiot right now. As for Tifa, with her face turning as red as a tomato, she quickly dropped her hand and flashed a weak smile. "I'm sorry. I-I just came to check up on him. You're definitely not interrupting anything. How can you? You're his girlfriend." She said it like she was reminding herself of the fact.
Aerith just smiled politely, not appearing to be offended in the least. "It's all right. Really."
I simply stood there, feeling paralyzed. Out of all the moments, why did she have to show up right when Tifa was touching me like that? Why?
'Um… Murphy's Law? If something can go wrong, it probably will? Ah screw it, you know what, I'm just being a dick. Okay, go ahead. Go on, back to your narration.'
"It really isn't my place," Tifa stated shyly. "I'm gonna go. Just make sure he's okay." As she walked past Aerith she offered a supportive smile and placed a hand on her shoulder before moving down the hall.
We both watched her until she disappeared. Then Aerith asked, "Cloud?" I looked away in embarrassment. "Cloud? It's okay. It really doesn't bother me, you have to trust me. Listen…" Her eyes went to the floor and she was quiet for a minute. "There's something I need to tell you."
Taking a deep breath, I nodded. "Okay… You, uh, you wanna come inside?"
"Sure." She bit her lip in hesitation and walked in.
The moment the door shut I reached out and embraced her, resting my face in the crook of her neck and inhaling her sweet banana fragrance. God, I needed this. She, however, seemed tense, not relaxed and at peace like she usually was so she quickly separated. I masked the hurt and confusion. "What? Something up?"
What I saw next startled me.
It looked like she was about to cry so I brought both hands to cup her cheeks. "Hey, hey, it's okay. Seriously, what's up?" There was such a look of guilt and regret etched across her face that it truly worried me. "Aerith? Hey?"
"Cloud." Her voice was cracking as she pushed herself away from me. She chuckled hoarsely, rolling her eyes like she was ashamed while wiping away some emerging tears in the process.
"You're crying? Why? Babe, what's wrong?" I moved forward again but she stopped me with a hand to my chest.
"Okay, Cloud, now just stop. Okay?" A fresh set of tears began to silently slip down her porcelain skin. "Just stop."
"But, Aerith... Seriously, what is it?" Why was she the troubled one all of a sudden? "Did something happen before you got here?" Panic crept across me at the possible scenarios.
"Cloud…" Her tone was so vulnerable, a far cry from its usual cheery disposition. "Do you care about that Tifa girl?"
What? The question caught me by complete surprise and I fell back to rub my forehead. "Wait, what? Tifa? Why are you… why are you asking me about Tifa?"
She shut her eyes for a second, halting the silent tears before opening them to a fresh wave. "Just answer my question. It's really important. I won't get mad. Promise. Do you care about her?"
What the hell was I supposed to answer? Why was she doing this now? Then it dawned on me: she was breaking up with me. She'd figured it out. Aerith was no stupid girl. "Are y- are you breaking up with me?" I asked quietly, doing my best to contain the rising ache in my chest.
She wiped her eyes with the back of one hand. "Cloud, do you care about her?"
My throat felt like a dry lump now and I stared at the floor dejectedly, millions of thoughts and emotions running wild right this second. Finally, I shrugged once. "What do you want me to say?"
"That you do. Because I know that that's the truth."
I shrugged once more, my eyes still cast downward, prompting an extremely long, uncomfortable silence to loom. Finally, I said, "Yeah, okay… so I like her." It felt kind of weird to admit it so another silence ensued. Finally, I met her green eyes again. "But I care about you more now. That's not a lie. You're…" I bit my tongue, realizing the mistake in my words. "You were… or maybe still are my girlfriend. I- I don't know… I hope we can still be-"
"Why do you keep doing this to yourself, Cloud?" she began.
"Do what?" I replied in between sharp breaths, still trying to comprehend all of this. It was all taking place way too fast. First Rufus, now this.
"You've liked her for how long, why don't you just go to her? Why do you keep torturing yourself with someone else that you really don't wanna be with?"
At those words, I simply lost it. "BECAUSE I DO WANNA BE WITH YOU, AERITH! GODDAMNIT!" My chest rose up and down in between sharp breaths.
Instead of fear, she appeared sympathetic and even took a step closer. "How much longer are you gonna keep lying to yourself? I've seen the way you look at her, Cloud. The way you two interact. The sparks are there. They're there for us, too, but they're just not the same."
I shut my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose tightly. "Why are you doing this, Aerith? Why? Why, just why?" I felt an oncoming headache. This wouldn't be good. "Are you just trying to start crap for no reason?"
"No, Cloud, I'm not. I'm sorry but I don't wanna hurt you any longer. You really are an amazing person. You deserve better." I stopped pinching my nose and opened my eyes to stare at her quivering lips. She appeared so sad.
"I just don't get why you have to do this." I stared at her miserably. "We were doing fine."
Fighting back another set of tears, she surprised me by losing patience and angrily shouting, "BECAUSE, DAMNIT, YOU'RE BEING PLAYED, THAT'S WHY! I DON'T WANNA PLAY YOU ANYMORE!" Then, calming down, she ushered, "You're way better than that..."
I recoiled back at the ferocity of the words, but more importantly from their content. "Played?" I grimaced. "Wh-…" A single breath escaped my throat, stopping my words short.
Suddenly it all made sense and painted a more clear picture for all these events. It all came into clarity.
She was quiet again as a few of her tears now fell to the floor while she looked down, strands of hair hiding her from view. "I'm sorry. I really am. It's just that… Zack said you were so lonely and that you never had anyone and he really wanted to see you happy for once." She sniffled several times before continuing. "I didn't wanna do it at first but… but then I saw you sitting there alone every day and I…" Her sobbing continued as she fought to collect her composure. "I fel- I felt sorry for you. You looked so sad all the time, staring at all those girls passing by so I thought, hey…" She finally looked up, the tears in her eyes shimmering, as she mustered a weak smile. "Hey… maybe this guy needs one, too. After all, he's not such a bad guy, he's my friend's little brother."
"Zack… told you…" I mumbled, unable to think clearly as only that thought existed in my mind. I blinked repeatedly while my left fist clenched and unclenched in the process. I felt numb, completely incapable of moving from my spot right now.
"Safer found out. Zack told him-they're good friends." He…" She rubbed her shoulders now, looking at the door for an instant. "…He was pretty pissed off at the idea and told him not to do it but Zack didn- he didn't listen." She shrugged. "So I told him that I'd try and help, you know. I saw you that day choking on your food and thought I'd introduce myself."
'Fuck… What the fuck… is this bullshit?'
Wow. What a bomb. Two in one night to be more exact. I guess when it rains, it really does pour.
If the news about Zack and Sephiroth gifting me a spot on the team was a punch in the gut from a professional boxer, then the news from Aerith right now was a shot to the midsection from a battering ram.
"Cloud, I'm-really… you have no idea. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I wanted to tell you because you're so much better than this."
"Yep…" I muttered, looking around everywhere but at her, trying to sort out my thoughts before I did something crazy: like snap right then and there.
"I want you to know, that a lot of those times together, it was real for me. I wasn't pretending to be happy around you… I actually was." Her eyes glimmered in the light and seemed to plead with me. She stepped forward. "Now that I got that off my chest… I want you to understand that it was for a friend at first but not anymore. I really want to be with you... for me now." She took another tentative step and carefully grabbed my right hand, beginning to rub it affectionately.
Her touch seemed like poison now and I surprised her by immediately pulling away in disgust, taking several steps back. "Don't touch me," I snarled.
She stepped forward again, bringing her hand up a second time. "Cloud, you ha-"
"Don't touch me!" I screamed, backing away further. "I said don't fucking touch me!"
She stepped back in fear, her eyes wide with raw emotion. "I'm sorry…" she whispered.
I took a deep breath, my eyes full of hate and venom, before I shouted, "Get out."
"Get out!" I pointed to the door. "Get out of my room! Get the fuck out of my room! Get the fuck out now!"
She didn't need to be told twice as she hastily opened the door, shot me a quick look filled with heartbreak and a new set of sparkling tears, before shutting it and disappearing out of sight.
A/N: Buckle up, folks, it's gonna be a bumpy ride. For those of you reading My Disjointed Life for the very first time, you're in for quite a show.