enemies closer.
Summary: paranoia and trust don't exactly go hand in hand.

Chapter 1. the beginning

Name: Cloud Strife
Age: 22
Home Address: not telling
Home No.: not telling
Work No.: not telling
Mobile No.: not telling
Business: Strife Delivery Service
Status: girlfriend; not married

Aerith sighed in increasing irritation as she flipped to the next page; all the more personal details had the stubbornly scrawled 'not telling' beside them. Eye colour, hair colour, best friend, hobby/ies – all were the same.

"'Not telling', Cloud?" She growled under her breath. "At this rate, I'm surprised you even admitted you had a partner. But you didn't even write my name." Her tone was quite affronted, and Cloud Strife, age 22, home address not telling, etc. etc. etc., winced.

"Why should I tell a perfect stranger my address?" He retorted. "They might stalk me!"

"Yeah, Cloud." Aerith bit sarcastically. "Because you're just so cute and innocent that a typical bum or salaryman might make you his target."

Cloud winced again, pouty lip curling in distaste. "Sephiroth." He reminded her.

Green eyes glared at him. "Look at that case properly, Cloud. The man was a raving lunatic. There can't be that many of them around. Really. Learn to trust people more." She got up, tossed the papers back on the small round kitchen table, gave him one more look and strode out of the room.

Her words floated back to him. "Who is honestly going to hire someone who won't even tell his phone number?"

Cloud narrowed his eyes at those forlornly mussed papers. Damn them. It was all their fault. Who wanted his marital status and hobbies anyway?

-x-x-x-

"No problem, Aer!" Called the overly cheerful voice, over the phone. In the background, a bus could be heard pulling up. "Catch ya later! I'll hire Cloudy-boy for you, even if he won't fill out the requirements." Her voice took on a pissed tone; clearly, the girl was used to expecting total obedience.

Aerith sighed into the phone, something she seemed to be doing more and more lately. "Well, you went a bit far with some of those questions, Yuffie." When the other end remained silent, she listed some from her memory. "'Favourite animal'. 'Who would you most like to meet in your life?' 'Favourite superhero'. Face it, Yuffie. How many people are honestly going to answer those and still trust their employer?"

Girl in question snickered into the receiver, keeping a careful eye on the bus. "Cid's got another copy for people to fill out – the real one. You know I only use these ones on people I have an, ahem, particular interest in."

Slim brown eyebrows went up. "Interest… ah, so is that why Reno showed up that time in a Winnie the Pooh costume?"

A cackle this time on the other end. "Well, what can I say? Some people just really want to be employed. That boy would do anything I told him to. If I told him to strip and do the polka wearing lace garters, he'd simply ask what colour." There was a short but thoughtful silence. "In fact, I should probably try that–"

Try as she might, Aerith couldn't restrain the coming sigh. "So long as you give him a job, Yuffie –"

"Got it." Yuffie turned serious all of a sudden. "Trust me on this, Aerith. Okay? Ah, got to go. That fat driver just got back from the 'loo. Bye-bye!"

The line went dead.

-x-x-x-

The first day was nothing at all like Cloud had expected, if you discounted the rapid firing of question after question, the rudely inquisitive stares, the suits all walking around with files and noses up in the air, and, well, everything.

Except his boss. Perhaps Yuffie Kisaragi was normal, to some people, but he saw nothing even remotely typical about the hyper girl with a ninja complex and a penchant for asking incredibly irritation questions over and over and over and over until Cloud wished she would just shut up and go shove her head under a guillotine, or, or something.

He didn't say that, though. He never would.

Ms Lockheart, the receptionist, wasn't quite what he expected either. For one, her, ah, chest area was quite a bit larger than he would have expected. She also backhanded three truckdrivers in the hour he was being given the grand tour by her; every single time, one of them had leered at her breasts. He really, really wanted to point out that that's what happened when you decorated plastic surgery with leather in certain places, but figured it wasn't tactically sound. She was bigger than him, and he didn't want to be backhanded too.

"So, Cloud."

"Mister Strife."

"'Mister Strife'. You going out with Aerith, then?"

"…Maybe."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "No hint of pride, or a sigh, and no vehemence. What, are you asexual?"

Cloud choked on air.

-x-x-x-

"Mister Disorganised." Yuffie sighed, irritated, crossing bare arms over a chest that was infinitely smaller than Tifa's. "I needed those figures by today. Well, Vexen needed them. But I was going to give them to him in my role as supervisor-slash-boss of this business, and now you've screwed that up for me. How you gonna fix it, Leonhart?"

A groan came from the desk, and a hand sneaked out from the mass of disheveled locks to flap languidly at her.

"Hmph. Sort it out, or I'll fire your sorry ass."

"…Cheap bitch."

"I know." Yuffie, at this stage, would have generally hopped off the edge of the desk, but as today she was not sitting on it on account of it being occupied already by the steadily overtaking hair, opted instead to disentangle her arms and prop them in a rather intimidating manner on her hips – not that this had any effect on the man whose face was currently planted smack bang in the centre of a large mess of papers on the aforementioned desk. "Let's hope this new guy doesn't ever meet you," she told the pile of hair critically. "Heavens forbid he might become lazy like you."

The gloved hand just kept on flapping until Yuffie vacated the room.

The pile remained motionless for another couple of minutes, until there came a long, drawn out groan of agony, and it moved just slightly skyward. A lanky hand scratched at stubble that hadn't met a razor for at least two weeks.

"…New guy?"

-x-x-x-

He tossed the papers on the desk. Yes, the desk with the nameplate that said "Yuffie Kisaragi – Business Ninja Extraordinare". The girl was a freaking otaku or something.

"So. Who's the new guy?"

Yuffie smirked triumphantly. "Knew you'd want to know," she spoke up at him, leafing quickly through a manila folder and slipping the sheets into an appropriate section. "You know, curiosity killed the cat…"

Gray eyes held hers unblinkingly for a long minute. "…And satisfaction brought it back." He rejoined listlessly, eventually realizing that some sort of answer seemed to be in order.

Yuffie scowled. Not quite the reply she had been looking for, but it had to do. "He's our new delivery boy." She told the tall man grumpily.

"'Delivery boy'," Leon mused, brow furrowed in what were possibly murderous thoughts at the ugly, evil brown carpet, but were probably more likely to be simply musings of this new recruit. "So, he's young, then?"

"Fine, fine. Sheesh. He's older than I am, okay?"

"Okay."

"Now, be a good boy and go back to sleep or whatever it is you usually do in the office."

Sensuous lips curved in a slight smile.

"…No, Leonhart. Just, no."

-x-x-x-

He slowed Fenrir to a halt at the back of the large, nondescript building he was now working at. The sleek black bike silently did as he asked, and made him almost unbearably smug at the thought that few people could handle this style with that much ease.

A small figure waved frantically from a window high above. Puzzled, Cloud waved back, and the shape disappeared.

It was safe to assume that the waving had not meant for him to remain with his bike, so he took the keys, ran a cloth carefully, quickly and lovingly over the smooth contours, and slipped in the open garage door. Cid swore at his entry, but Cid swore at everything so Cloud merely nodded and walked past the barrel-chested, barrel-waisted, barrel-everything man, peeling off his leather riding gloves as he went. At last, he was settling into the job, and finding that he was better at it than any other job thus far. He even enjoyed it, to a certain extent. When he didn't have to speak to people. Or communicate on any level with them whatsoever.

Especially his boss…

"Fastest delivery yet!" Came the excited whoop, as Yuffie swung her legs over the front of the filing cabinet she was perched atop and jumped down to land in front of him, waving her stopwatch like it was a trophy of war. Maybe a scalp like the Red Indians of old were supposed to have done, Cloud thought, retreating into that little corner of his mind that was strictly No-Yuffie. He walked past her, safe and oblivious in his isolation –

–And promptly walked into someone. His mind, scrambling to recover from Retreat-For-The-Sake-Of-Sanity-Mode, noted two things. One: it was a someone a lot bigger than him, although that wasn't entirely unusual for Cloud. Two: the someone did not appear to have a chest of notable round-and-squishiness - indeed, it was quite compact – which made him breathe a sigh of relief before pushing himself off the someone and looking up.

Something which rather resembled a bear – a very, very shaggy bear with a very firm upper torso – glowered down at him. "Who're you?"

Somewhere, long ago, one of Cloud's less picky ancestors must have bred with a rabbit, and while Cloud normally would not have even thought of such a thing, he cursed them in that moment, because all his animal instincts were screaming 'Run! Run, damn you, you fool!' Dimly, he noted Yuffie begin babbling again in the background somewhere, and he involuntarily clutched his head as he staggered further back a step.

"Oi, who the fuck is this?" The voice boomed again.

"Bears eat rabbits…" Cloud mumbled to himself, backing up even more. His head was starting to hurt all of a sudden.

"You broke him," Yuffie chirped in, skipping up to the pair. "That wasn't very nice, Leonhart. He was doing such a good job."

"He ran into me." The bear said.

"You sleep like a log while you're at work. Didn't it ever occur to you that you might just feel like one if someone impacted with you, too?" She mocked cheerily, pressing her hand to her dazed employee's forehead. "Cloud, this is Squall Leonhart. Coworker. Also bear-log-person. One hell of a lazy bastard." Yuffie used her hold on Cloud's head to direct his gaze upwards.

Cloud didn't think it was a very good idea to make him look upward – he might fall over if he stopped looking at his feet – but he had little choice in the matter all of a sudden, and blinked instead to clear his vision a little.

Leonheart, for his part, stared down, face impassive. Except for one eyebrow, hidden by years of the unchecked growth atop his head. It twitched, and tried to rise. It kept trying several times until it collapsed, as though exhausted by the effort.

-x-x-x-

Another sheaf of papers landed on his desk. Leonheart, for once not sleeping, regarded them blankly. His mind was occupied elsewhere.

"What'd you think of him?" Came the ever annoying words of the manager, who sounded as though she'd just finished a breakfast of Chupa-Chups and Coke.

"Who?"

"You might be stupid – in fact, I'm convinced you are – but that doesn't give you the right to act it when you know what I'm talking about," Yuffie sniffed, seating herself on a comfortable little corner of his desk like a smiteful little demi-ninja-goddess of smitey goodness. "Cute, wasn't he?"

Leon peered at her in much the same manner as he had been looking at the papers, with perhaps a smidgeon more loathing.

"Anyway, it occurs to me that since you terrified the bloody shit out of him," Yuffie continued, as though she hadn't noticed anything, "you ought to make amends. Take him out to dinner. Or something. Without telling his girlfriend. Or scaring him again."

Deep in the dankest recesses of Squall's mind, a faintly flickering lightbulb told him that for once, his boss was almost right. And in the same place, in a small, unwashed, filthy cauldron, a plan began festering.

A plan to win over the new boy, because Squall Leonheart, contrary to all appearances and anything else pointing to the aforementioned contrary, had been hooked, right from the words that his mind had not quite registered as 'Bears eat rabbits'.

And so far, the plan involved a visit to an old friend. An old friend who just so happened to own the best hair-dressing salon in town, and had been literally begging him to come for a free trial for several years now.

In fact, Irvine would probably pay him to show up…

-x-x-x-

Tifa blinked as a tall shape blocked the sunlight streaming in the glass doors to the reception desk. "…Leon?"

The shape remained there in an impressively foreboding pose for a moment more, then shifted to one side.

"Hi, Leon." The woman said, glancing back down at the paperwork strewn in front of her desk.

Trying not to voice his slightly despairing irritation, the man walked in through.

"Hello, Leonhar – oh my fucking god."

Yes. Miss Trepe's reaction was considerably more favourable, Leon thought smugly to himself. Maybe Tifa's sight had been impaired. After all, he had been standing in front of the light…

"Holy shit. Did you actually bathe?"

…Well, perhaps her response was a little over the top. Nonetheless, it was still quite satisfying.

The Advertising Department (total staff – two) staff member had dropped a file.

With almost insufferable delight coolly masked beneath a calm, collected, 'I don't give a fuck' exterior, Leon bent and picked it up, offering it back to the older woman with a low bow.

Quistis' eyes bulged most amusingly, and she turned tail and ran in her dainty black heels.

-x-x-x-

Yuffie was most peeved when she walked into his office later that same day. "You fucker. D'you have to cause accidents all over my fucking property? I ask what the hell happened, and all I hear is 'Leon'? What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

She stopped short when she saw him, though. Once again, an enjoyable reaction. Not quite struck speechless, Leonheart noted, arms folded behind his head as he lounged back in his chair, but that was nigh impossible with the self-labelled Business Ninja Extraordinaire.

She whistled. "Damn you for being an old fart, you stud muffin."

Possibly the highest words of praise he would ever hear from her, and so he would be content with that for now. Leon simply smirked, just faintly.

-x-x-x-

The first hint Cloud got that someone else was in the same cafeteria as him – okay, the only cafeteria, but he always made sure it was deserted before he entered – was when that someone else groped his ass and breathed heavily on his neck. With a shocked yelp, he threw himself backward, knocking both himself and his attacker to the ground, and bounded to his feet to face his assailant.

The brunet pulled himself up until he rested on his elbows, gazing up at the bewildered, prepared-to-defend-against-any-and-all-Evil boy. The slightest smirk played about his lips; it had made them its permanent playground, in fact.

"Hello, Cloud." Leonheart said.

-x-x-x-


Written for someone, of course. In this case? I'll make it for Glassie. My dear, it's been a very long time and I'm looking forward to any chance we get to talk. This, of course, means that I have my wonderful baby back (read: laptop) and thus can now write while I am in Japan. This also means that I can access the internet at school, save all Glassie's works to my USB, and read them at home. Then construct significantly long reviews, once again save them to my USB, and copy+paste when I get back to school. Life is good. Next chapter – details on the wonders of one Irvine, beautician extraordinaire, and Cloud becomes a little more aware of certain normal social activities, such as being come on to.

Love Tally, as usual. Pretty hard to get someone else on this account.