Knowing and Seeing

Knowing and Seeing

Title: Knowing and Seeing.

Genre: Angst. Yes, it's so over the top, angsty cakes and I'm sorry, but I just needed my weekly angst fix.

Rating: Meh. Nothing sexual.But naughty words, courtesy of Cid.

Summary: Cid finds Cloud being a party-pooper.

There was a difference, Cid decided at that moment, between knowing and seeing.

He had known that Cloud was fucked up, for example. He knew that the kid never seemed to reach anything that resembled genuine happiness. He knew that there was some sort of…pain and sadness that seemed to be as much a part of him as his spiky hair or blue eyes. And knew that that sounded cheesy.

But it was true. Hell, sometimes, it hurt to look at the kid for too long. The loneliness and melancholy had a way of reaching out to you too if you observed Cloud for too long.

But knowing all this just did not prepare him for the forlorn sight that greeted him now.

Cid may not have been the life and soul of the party. He preferred to sit and drink his beer and smoke, content to simply watch the others go about their noisy antics. So maybe he didn't contribute all that much to the rowdy party spirit. But at least he was there. Hell, even Vincent was there. Never mind that he had had to bribe, threaten and coax the man to put in an appearance. That wasn't the point. The point was that he was there.

Which was more than could be said for some people.

Cloud Strife was no more the lifeblood of the party than he or Vincent. But, like both he and Vincent, the kid always put in a quiet appearance at these gatherings. He knew that people would worry and cluck around like mother hens if he didn't. Apparently Cloud thought it was less traumatic to simply show up than to have at least ten people almost knocking down his door with enquiries as to whether he was alright, and in that case, to get his ass down here, right now.

Which was why his conspicuous absence was getting Cid just slightly riled up. He had seen Tifa bite her lip and glance upstairs approximately six times, and had felt Vincent shift restlessly at least four.

And he was most certainly not getting up to go check on the kid. He was not some sort of over protective mama chocobo. Unlike the rest of their gathering. He was simply going to pay a visit to the little boy's room. Which just happened to be upstairs.

And he really had been planning to go into the bathroom. He really, really had. But he had heard a noise. From Cloud's room. And he just couldn't ignore that, no matter how full his bladder may or may not have been.

He approached the room with caution, an inexplicable feeling of guilt creeping over him. He had the strongest feeling that he shouldn't be interrupting Cloud right now. Like he was intruding upon something private.

But then he heard that sound again, and the damn kid had left his fucking door open. It was just a crack, but that was enough for Cid to peer inside and to almost immediately close his eyes. Knowing really didn't prepare him for this.

Cloud was sitting on his plain and standard issue bed, hunched over an object that he cradled in his arms. He had his face buried in the soft black material, and he seemed to be taking deep, gulping breaths every now and then, as if trying desperately to inhale some old and precious scent. His fingers slowly caressed the material.

The shirt that Cloud held was familiar, though Cid wished that it wasn't. That he hadn't seen a very similar one before and did not know the significance of it. But Tifa had already shown him the souvenir photo. The photo depicting a younger version of herself, a distant and too-young-General, and an exuberant and happy First Class SOLDIER. He had seen the shirt the First was wearing, and could recall the words Tifa had said to him.

Cloud… Zack… Devoted… Died… Lonely…

Cid could have cursed Tifa right about now. He didn't want to see Cloud's pain and know that he could do nothing to ease it.


The sound was a kind of choked sob, and although Cid knew that he should just walk away, that he was intruding, he couldn't seem to draw his eyes away from Cloud. He saw the kid lift his round, tear-stained face from the shirt, and look towards the heavens, as though begging for an answer.

"Zack…I miss you. Nothing's the same without you. I miss your bad jokes. I even miss your teasing. I used to act annoyed when you called me a chocobo, but it made me laugh. But you knew that anyway.

I miss your hugs. Nobody here hugs. I just want you to touch me again. Please. I miss you." The words spilled from Cloud's mouth in a quiet keening, and Cid saw the other's hands tighten against the shirt. Cloud let his shoulders slump and his face fell back into the black fabric, which absorbed his tears, which now fell uncontrollably. Cloud's shoulders hitched violently and his voice broke out into alarming hacking and moaning sobbing. He cried harder than Cid had ever seen anyone cry. They were devastated and completely unashamed tears of grieving young children, who know nothing of society's expectations and etiquette, who knew only their overwhelming loss and do not have anything to lose by showing it. It was the kind of grief that one expected from a recently bereaved partner. Not one who had had years to adjust to the loss.

This, as far as Cid was concerned, only made it worse. The fact that the kid was still grieving at such intensity told him three things. One, that Cloud must have truly loved Zack. Two, that the guy must have been pretty damn special. Three, that Cloud would probably never stop grieving.

Why did he have to watch this? Yes, it was damn selfish, but this was too fucking tragic to watch. He knew that he wouldn't be sleeping easily for quite a few nights to come.

He wanted to walk away. He couldn't watch this anymore. He started to turn away, but then found that his feet simply wouldn't let him. They couldn't let him leave Cloud alone like this.

So he walked heavily into Cloud's room and his grief, his footsteps sounding impossibly loud against the sturdy wood flooring.

He was expecting Cloud to start, to be surprised and angry at this sudden intrusion, to look up and tell him either with his eyes or with words, to back away.

But Cloud did not look up from where he was snuggling his face into the shirt of the SOLDIER. His mind no doubt trying desperately to fill in the blanks that the shirt didn't complete, to convince itself that the long-gone man really was there, pressed close, warm and comforting and alive.

Even when Cid sat down slowly and cautiously on the bed, right next to Cloud, the younger man did not show any hint of acknowledging the pilot's presence.

He was too besotted with the shirt. He squeezed it to his chest hard, his eyes screwed tightly shut, as though he were in pain, as though the shirt was something precious that may be taken from him at any moment.

Carefully, and so very slowly, Cid's arm crept around Cloud's shoulders, and the blond let himself be tugged against the other's chest, allowed his head to be tucked under Cid's chin.

Cid was not used to cuddling people. Not really. He preferred any embraces that he gave out to have something a little more rough about them. The notion of actually cuddling anyone made him cringe slightly. And yet he could do nothing less. Something Cloud had said to 'Zack' had struck him deeply.

"I miss your hugs. Nobody here hugs."

Like a child. Pleading for something that Zack could never give him now, yet something that any of their misfit family would gladly give if asked. But Cloud never asked. But perhaps he shouldn't have to. Perhaps that was why he missed this other SOLDIER guy so much. Perhaps with him, he hadn't needed to ask. Cid suddenly felt ashamed on behalf of all of AVALANCHE. For all the times that they had been too busy to really look at Cloud, and see that he wasn't some fierce warrior who could deal with having the weight of the world on his shoulders without anyone to help.

Cid gently reached for the shirt that was absorbing Cloud's tears. He stroked it reverently for a moment, and Cloud didn't seem to mind.

"Kid. Cloud. I know you -" He had to stop, to clear his throat and take a breath. "I know you loved this guy. I know you miss him more than any-fucking-thing in the world, and I know that it hurts like hell." His voice thickened slightly.

"But Cloud, you can't love a shirt."

For the very first time tonight, Cloud recognised his presence. At those words he keened, a low and strangely quiet noise, pitching forward and clutching the shirt to his chest and out of Cid's reach. As if to say yes I can, I can, I can, you just watch me.

Not knowing what else to say, but needing to say something, he raised his eyes to heaven, hoping that this didn't come out to slushy and girly.

"And Cloud, ya dumb shit, if you want fucking hugs, then just ask, we don't bite all that damn often."

A pathetic, weak little chuckle issued from Cloud, and he leaned back against Cid, still cradling the shirt, and his crying seemed to cease.

However, when Cid suddenly felt a warm wetness seeping through his shirt again, the only thing he could do was sigh, take a firmer grip on the boy's shoulders and apologise.

"I'm sorry I'm not Zack, kiddo. Truly I am."