Hello everyone! It feels marvelous to be back again!

As for this story, as you will notice, it isn't a third instalment to my previous um... "collection," but rather, something a little bit different. It still revolves around the reluctant-to-start-relationship between Leon and Cloud, though in a very different setting.

The whole thing spawned after watching a mockumentary on Small Pox practically four months ago. That's really my only excuse even though there's no trace—pardon the pun—of Small Pox in this fic...whatever.

I also decided to make the story a bit more light hearted—strange enough for a story including an illness—because...well...hey...why not? Contrast builds character!

All I can say is make of it what you will, and I hope you enjoy it just as much as Acov and OPtR!

"$4.37 is your change." Cloud said cringing at the sound of his own voice. The woman smiled with appreciation, admiring her bouquet of freshly cut roses.

"Thank you, he'll be so happy to see these when he wakes up."

Resisting the urge to slam the change drawer shut, he smiled and left it open to slam closed later. "I'm sure he will ma'am."

She smiled at him again and walked down the long white hallway.

As soon as he couldn't see her anymore, Cloud slammed the change drawer shut as hard as he could, nearly knocking over the tip jar in the process.

"Don't be such a...hateful person." Sora said hopping down from a ladder with heart shaped vase. "It's not her fault you despise the human race."

Cloud glared at him. "I don't despise the human race. I just despise you."

Sora smiled coyly. "Thanks! Now I get to report you to Riku!

"Riku doesn't need to know anything."

"Too late, he already heard it." Riku said airily, carrying a large cardboard a box.

"Aw man! Where did you come from?"

"The delivery truck."

Sora just smiled. "What's in the box?"

"What else? Flowers." He set the box down on the counter. "Cloud, stop despising Sora, and Sora stop antagonizing Cloud."

"Oh, we were just messing around," Sora said taking the box that Riku had set down. "What kind of flowers are these anyway?"

"Moonshadow carnations and roses. We're low budget here."

"Cool! We've got some delphiniums left in the back, they'll look perfect together with a few of those carnations...and maybe something green to add depth..." Sora prattled on, already heading to the back of the shop. Cloud rolled his eyes and returned back to the cash register. Quite obviously, this was not his idea of a dream career.

Riku smiled good-naturedly and patted him on the shoulder. "It's not so bad."

"You have no idea what I have to put up with."

"You were here with Sora all morning. I have a pretty good idea."

"Trade me. I'd much rather work the other end."

"That's what you said the week before last when I traded you this for stuffed animals and balloons."

"I'm ready to have my old responsibilities back."

"You've only been working with Sora for seven days!"

"Times change."

Riku sighed. "...If you insist. Anything to keep you from killing the customers."

"Great, I'll give you my resignation papers tomorrow."

"You do that." He smiled, and followed Sora into the back room.

Cloud, now mildly content, took his seat in front of the other cash register.

The three of them worked in a gift shop within the hospital that was divided up into two sections: flowers and gifts. On the gift shop side was a coffee maker— which was Riku's idea to make visitors more comfortable. All three of them were forced to wear horridly atrocious striped pink aprons to match the decor of the hospital. Many a time—today included—Cloud threatened to tear the thing off.

Despite the aprons and Cloud's ever changing jobs, he rather liked working there. It was small, but quaint in decor and the people he worked with weren't so bad either. The counter was a pastel teal with a sort of pinkish border that matched the stripes in the apron. The counter itself swooped around in an arc, and the place that swelled around divided it into the two sections.

On the side closest to the exit was the flower shop and on the other side was the gift shop. If one tried hard enough, Cloud discovered, one would not be able to see the other side. A happy finding in his determination to block all flowers from his line of vision.

Each of them had their separate jobs. Sora made the flower arrangements—enthusiastically so—Riku handled the gifts, coffee, and business aspects which included inventory and proceeds and Cloud was in charge of whatever he could stand at the moment.

Currently, Cloud was working in one of Riku's previous positions because as if the scent of flowers and the constant presence of pollen wasn't disgusting enough, he couldn't stand how utterly impossible Sora's enjoyment of the position had manifested into a sort of nauseating kindergarten carnival that threatened to drive Cloud all but mad.

Cloud liked Sora, he really did. He was nice, generous, and an all around good person. Earlier's bout had just been a harmless expression of Cloud's boredom and just used to keep himself entertained. However, when the time came to create a new bouquet—usually every other day—Sora would sort take it to the extreme.

That was all that needed to be said about that.

Riku was a generally level headed person with a surprisingly high amount of patience. How he could put up with all the cantankerous customers and still have enough energy to prepare coffee for the next day was so far beyond Cloud he couldn't even see it and the fact that Riku seemed to enjoy Sora's botanical whims made him seem almost inhuman.

Cloud himself had to have been one of the more mismatched employees for the job. He wasn't too fond of people, and he wasn't what one would call a patient person either. Thrice he had banned certain customers from the shop simply because they couldn't pick out a bouquet in a speedy fashion.

He tried his hardest not to be outwardly rude, but on occasion his mask of kindness would slip and Riku would have to do some fast talking to keep the customers from being too offended.

In fact, the only reason he had chosen this job in the first place, was because times were tough, and the gift shop was the only place of work that hired within a five mile radius. A job was a job, and Cloud had made the deadly mistake of thinking 'how bad could it be?'

It was still a horribly feminine job, but after the first couple of weeks or so, he had gotten used to the establishment and it had grown on him just a bit. He now mainly kept his air of cantankerousness to save face for his masculinity.

But anyway, Cloud had his new post, and was relatively pleased at the moment. He leaned just far enough back in the stool to where his shoulders touched the row of shelves behind him, and he could rest his head on one of the stuffed animals. He closed his eyes and could smell the fresh coffee brewing just off to his right. If this was all he had to do, he couldn't remember why he had traded the job in the first place.

All Cloud had to do was hand out a stuffed animal or two, blow up some balloons and hand out coffee. It was far easier than having to contend with the florally excited Sora and his criticisms on Cloud's lack of artistic skill. Yes, this was a job Cloud could definitely handle.

"Excuse me, can I get a cup of coffee?"

Cloud snapped his eyes open. With the smooth voice that had interrupted his moment of reprieve he suddenly remembered why he had quit the job in the first place. Standing in front of him, was none other than Leon, a doctor that happened to work in this particular hospital.

It was this individual that had made Cloud despise all medical health care professionals in the entire continent.

It was this individual that made Cloud make immature gagging noises every time he walked by the register last week.

It was this individual that made Cloud trade Riku for the job and indirectly started his anthropophobia.

Cloud could never bring himself to refer to the man as Doctor Leon because it sounded funny and really didn't fit his personality. More appropriately, he should have been called "The lab coat wearing swamp demon from the Blue Lagoon."


Leon tipped a sardonically curious eyebrow. "So you've returned to your previous post this week eh?"

"Now regretfully so."

"I just want some coffee today. Exchanging pleasantries with you doesn't interest me in the slightest."

"Good. You weren't going to get any."

Needless to say, Cloud had a distinct disapproval of the doctor. Ever since the store had first started selling coffee. On his rare and few breaks, Leon would come over, order some coffee and leave.

There was something about the way that he came over though. It was something about his walk and the way he carried himself that Cloud disfavored.

Leon wasn't at all unattractive and not particularly foreboding in his appearance. In fact, he looked rather decent in his stark white lab coat and his with his brown hair hanging frowzily neat at his shoulders.

But Cloud had noticed the first day that the doctor had a bit of arrogance to him—enough showed to contend with Cloud's own air of haughtiness—and knowing how Cloud was, he accidently on purpose muttered something rude. The doctor overheard, shot something back equally as tactless and this was how the two had started their growing disdain for each other.

Of course, Cloud would never think that he was the one to start the mini-feud in the first place.

Cloud had worked a total of fourteen days—starting after Riku set up the coffee machine and Leon began coming—before he thought he would have to send the doctor to the very hospital he worked in. He was the first day of the third week that Cloud asked Riku who had gladly switched him positions to the flower shop he now despised.

In only a weeks time, the experience had been so awful Cloud had forgotten why he hated the gift shop and switched back again, only to be reminded why he hated it so much in the first place...Leon.

"You probably haven't the slightest clue how to be pleasant anyway."

Cloud's upper lip curled as he poured a full tablespoon of coffee into a Styrofoam cup and slammed it onto the counter. "Refills are a dollar thirty three."

"You'd have to properly fill it first, now wouldn't you?"

"Maybe this is our new regular size."

"Maybe you just don't know how to pour coffee."

Cloud smirked. "You calling me stupid?"

Leon smirked in return. "I'm saying you have minimal cranial development."

Cloud barely heard a "here we go again," from the other side of the shop, but ignored it and moved the coffee pot over the cup. He then slowly poured another tablespoon, then another and another with deliberate slowness until the cup was full.

Leon's amusement was growing with each additional tablespoon, until he almost chuckled.

"Thank you."

"Come again!"

Leon raised the cup at him in parting, and headed down the hallway.

Cloud replaced the coffee pot and folded his arms in smug satisfaction. He would not be trading Riku for another job. He would keep his current post, and enjoy this war with the doctor.


Though I stressed earlier that this story wasn't part of the ACoV and OPtR ...communal, it doesn't mean it's dead.

I simply put, through the gentle persuasion of Hito Me Bore (my twin sister) and my own lack of self control, BAM! I wrote a trilogy! Imagine that!

So, the story continues...This should be the last installment. It's really a more detailed insight on Seifer's attack, and how suffering such abuse from someone is bound to put a damper on a real relationship.

So, If you would like, I'll post it. That's really it.

With that said, Please Review! Comments and criticisms are well appreciated!