final fantasy vii. cloud & red xiii. G. characters belong to square-enix. written for nanaki bh.

rusted and weathered.

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Cloud is exhausted.

Physically: countless battles fought against true enemies and wild animals, desperate to scrounge up supplies; necessary medical attention inaccessible or unaffordable; muscles sore and feet weary and hair greasy.

Mentally: the fate of the world resting upon their shoulders; impromptu-leader status; a persistent lack of gil.

Emotionally: endless sources of stress, guilt, and insecurity; being so needed by a group of people he doesn't truly know; fragmented memories pestering him, unbidden, of a reality he's not sure he wants to remember.

Cloud is also fucking tired of innkeepers telling them that Nanaki can't sleep inside.

Ignoring an agitated look from said innkeeper, he drags several heavy blankets out the door. He walks around to the side of the building; Nanaki's already curled against the cold, shivering slightly and trying to protect himself from the unwelcome elements. One wall on one side offers very little protection; this is obvious, but apparently not to most innkeepers.

He rolls his eyes at the insensitivity of businessmen and sits down beside Red XIII, crossing his legs and spreading one blanket over their lower bodies. Then he drapes the other across and behind their backs, over his shoulders and Nanaki's head. He's not sure if the animal? person? ...has noticed yet, but as long as they can sleep in relative peace, he'll be okay with it.

Cloud leans his head against the inn's wall and pulls the topblanket tighter around himself; he hopes the wind will die down a little. Hypothermia wouldn't be a great thing to deal with, on top of everything else. There's dirt on his ass now, for sure, but that's the least of his worries.

Nanaki shifts in his sleep and rests his head atop Cloud's lap. The almost-SOLDIER never had any pets as a child; though he doesn't like to think of Nanaki as a dog, or cat, or...whatever he really is, he can't help but associate that feeling.

It's soothing.

He scritches his fingers through Nanaki's fur, frowning at how cold the decorative beads are -- winter is crap, he decides -- and warming them slightly with his hands. It's not really of any use, of course, but the blankets will shield them from the wind. More or less.

Nanaki makes a contented noise, somewhere between a huff and a sigh, and Cloud feels himself drifting off to sleep, too.

Morning will come soon enough, but he'll remember these quiet moments the rest of his life.

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--- elendraug (at) yahoo . com

12/03/2006