Just Like Him
Chapter 3: Learning

It had been three weeks now, and with no further mention of their first argument Cloud found that he was rather growing the like this girl. She came out of the little bakery that she'd pressed Cid into setting up just beside the Accessory Shop to greet him with a cheery smile and something fresh baked, bright and early every morning. She always looked refreshed, no matter the fact that most of Traverse's residents were still abed this early. She'd keep, he noticed, a lookout through the clear glass panes of her store every morning at six, and each day as her stoic new friend crossed the plaza in the First District she'd step outside and greet him in long black slacks and three-quarter-sleeved white blouse and push a sample of that morning's cooking into his hands before heading back into her little shop to get on with her routine, long auburn hair catching the sparse light as she turned.

It was a familiar sight, one he figured he'd probably always associate with her now, and it was an established thing – Cloud had followed his own morning pattern since he'd first come to Traverse Town, and saw no reason to change because something had been added to it.

As he came to know Kairi better, he began to realize that she was similar in many ways to the friends he already had. She and Yuffie were always smiling and optimistic, quick to take offence when it suited them but also swift to forgive. She was as sweet as Aerith when one day a boy handed her bouquet of roses over the counter of her little store; she gently but firmly refused his multiple suggestions of dates, the way Aerith would. He even saw similarities between the girl and the reserved Leon, not just in that they were both by nature early risers, but in that they were quiet on the things they cared most deeply for, preferring the keep their stronger feelings private. Family and friends came under this category, as he was to learn later.

All these traits that coincided with other people he knew pieced together an altogether new and complex person, Cloud slowly came to comprehend. By nature a quiet man, his conversational skills were put to the test whenever she was with him. Yuffie could carry on a one-sided conversation with a brick wall if it suited her, but Kairi liked to have feedback. Thus the "I'll-respond-if-I-must-but-I-don't-really-want-to-say-much" method was born.

For example, if Kairi suddenly remarked that it was a lovely day today, even if it was raining, Cloud would be compelled to reply with something along the lines of "Yeah," elaborating with a meaningful glance from Kairi that it was "a very nice day, even with the rain." He found it irritating at first, all this small talk that was completely meaningless, but soon got used to it. One of the many things that changes when someone new walks into your life.

And this someone, he was really coming to like.


"Cloud?" She asked quietly one day, tearing tiny chunks from a piece of cake in her hands. It was one of those aforementioned rainy days; they were simply leaning under her shop's verandah, Cloud having being caught in the sudden downpour and taken refuge in the nearest place.

"Mm." A glance from Kairi; he quickly amended that with "Yes?"

She smiled, violet eyes not looking at him. "Where do you come from?"

Well. That was an odd question. "Midgar. So does Aerith. And Tifa, and Yuffie-"

"Tifa?"

"Well, she might still be there. Last she called me, though, she was in Halloween Town." He said.

Kairi looked at her usually silent friend, smirking slightly. "All female friends, huh? Which one was most 'special'?"

He directed the blue-evil-glare-of-doom towards her, but she took no notice. "Yeah. I found they didn't try to kill me as much as the guys."

That earned a laugh from his new friend - he felt smug. My turn, I guess... "What about you? I know you come from Destiny Islands. What's it like there?" Haha. The obligatory statement is done. Now I don't have to talk any more...

"Well..." Kairi grinned, flipping her auburn hair over her shoulder. "It's a small place, but really sunny, and it's always like summer!" She'd raised her arms; now she dropped them, wrinkling her nose distastefully at the drizzle before them. "Nothing like this. Usually. But... uh, there's heaps of sand. And trees - ooh, we even have a paopu tree!"

That caught his curiosity - he'd never heard of paopu. "Ahwha?"

"...Cloud, that was unintelligible."

"And that was a long word. I asked, 'what?'" He crossed his arms over his black clothes, looking at her sideways. I'm getting used to this whole talk-to-people thing. Yay for me. If I'd wanted to learn it in the first place.

This time purple eyes laughed at him, as the girl swung to face the swordsman. "A paopu fruit looks likea star. I don't know what they taste like - probably pretty foul - but if you share it with someone, it's supposed to intertwine your destinies forever. Selphie was always cutting them up and trying to slip the bits into Tidus's food."

He'd latched onto the 'intertwining destinies' part. "Does anybody really want that?" He murmured quietly.

"Of course they do! There's nothing more romantic, right?" Kairi toyed with the slice of orange poppyseed cake, oblivious to his frown.

...she's missing the point. Cloud tried to make her see it. "Imagine that you grew to hate that person-"

"But that's why you only share it with someone you really care about!"

"-and you never wanted to see them again. Or does it enhance positive feelings, or magnify the happy memories or something? I don't think I've got many happy memories..." His thoughts trailed off.

"I have no idea. But the fact remains," Kairi pouted defiantly, "that it's a bond that should be treasured. Like having someone in your heart always..." Oh, drat. Don't think about that, don't think about that...

"Who'd really want that?" He snorted, shaking blond spikes and looking out across the square - the rain had stopped.

"I did!" She pointed out, suddenly angry. Shocked, he glanced back at her as she continued. "I wanted nothing else, one time! I couldn't wait to see him again, and I always thought that a paopu would get us together quicker. And he told me-" She broke off sharply, breathing heavily. Shit. Why the hell did I say that? Now he's going to ask-

"Who? What'd he say?"

"Shit!" She snarled, hurling the piece of cake she'd been holding to the floor. Crumbs lay spattered everywhere."Do you have to ask? It's not even any of your business! Let me get this straight, Mister Strife - what I do is never anything to do with you!"

Cloud leaned backwards reflexively, holding hishands up before his face as if to protect himself. "Sorry." Quickly, before she could say another word, he stepped out into the wet square and walked away swiftly.

The girl stared after him for a moment, then sniffled loudly and turned heel to grab some tissues.


Somehow, once again when they met, everything had blown over in each person's mind and the subject of close friends and family wasn't brought up again. Soon they were standing in silence as they liked to do, not filling the quiet with empty prattle.

And then, it happened. "I know you've met Yuffie already-"

The two went crazy, as Cloud, standing to one side, raised a single blond eyebrow in bewilderment. After a moment, he simply sighed and settled back against the wall; the ninja had followed him on his daily walk this time and had insisted on checking out Kairi's shop with him.

"Yuffie!"

"Kairi Kairi Kairi!"

"It's so great to see you!"

"I know! Isn't it?"

A smug grin accompanied this last statement as the raven-haired girl herself hugged her red-haired lookalike ecstatically. "The place looks great, Kairi!" She added, glancing appreciatively at the rows of steaming fresh scones Kairi had just set out before her unexpected customers - well, one of them was unexpected, anyway - had arrived. The ninja glared suddenly at Cloud, who'd opened his mouth to speak. "What?"

He shook his head. "Just wondering... why you're so hyper all of a sudden. Both of you."

The almighty materia queen laughed. "Ah, you males are so ignorant... a girl needs some female companions sometimes! I hear she's even been having dinner with Cid every night - haven't you, Kai?" The girl nodded. "And she needs a change. So..." She drew the last out, "'Tis Yuffie to the rescue!"

Ye gods. "Ah." He mumbled vaguely. "So. Um. That means what, exactly?"

The girl beamed again. "Well, I was thinking, a lunch date tomorrow - you, me, the lion log guy, and Kairi! So it's a double date too! Kairi, the moogles can run the joint for a couple of hours," she admonished her friend airily, "So you just relax. It'll be fun! Right, Cloud?"

Help.


Aha! Done! And this chapter goes towards my darling Felia, for it is her birthday today! Love you so much girl, everyone - worship her. She is an angel, and deserves it... oh, and check out her fics too!

H A P P Y .Bi R T HdA Y >>.Mi Y O R i
F R O M .A N G E Lk Ai R i

xDDD Girl, this wasn't going to be all of your present, but you still haven't told me whether you like Sora x Kairi x Roxas angst. INFORM ME IMMEDIATELY BIOTCH OR FACE MY... NON-PRESENT-GIVING WRATH.

But hah. There you have it. It is the wonderful girl's birthday present for Fi-chan!

So... review? For a Tally shall be happy.

Ciao!

Tally. SilverAuthoress. Rikku. AngelKairi.

-x- crack!pairing goddess -x-