This is a response to Kitsune13's oneshot, 'Taking Care.' Although if you want to read that one, it's in a- What's the term? Drabble folder, that's it! The full story is called 'For Their Own Good'. 'Taking Care' is chapter seven of the current eleven. I recommend you read that one as well. This makes a lot more sense if you do. So, anyway, this is Cloud's point of view on the Nibelheim Reactor sequence, when he's stuck outside with Tifa. Again, this is a direct turnaround to Kitsune13's story, so the events that happen there also will happen here; just from our spiky blond hero's perspective.
By the way, I don't own Final Fantasy 7.
Of Mako and Promises
"You'd better take really good care of me, then!"
His eyes widened at her bold words, though his visor hid it from her view. He lowered his head into his green scarf and he felt a chuckle escape his lips. At least, he thought it was a chuckle. It was barely audible, and it sounded more like a snort than a laugh. He looked up again to see she had turned her back to him, absent-mindedly fingering the brim of her hat. He closed his eyes, remaining at attention in front of the stairs.
She was exactly as he remembered -cheerful, outgoing, helpful- and yet, she seemed so much older -her long, creamy legs, gorgeous chocolate eyes, her well-defined chest…
He shook his head, forcing his thoughts elsewhere. He felt so damn guilty, deceiving her like this. He couldn't bring himself to tell her he'd failed to reach SOLDIER. He promised her he would. He promised her he'd become strong enough to protect her from anything and everything. He promised her he'd come and save her if she was ever in a bind.
He'd be her Prince Charming to her Damsel in Distress. The metaphor made him gag a little, still quiet enough she couldn't hear him, or at the very least, quiet enough not to pierce her thoughts.
Why had he been forced to stay out here? Why hadn't Zack taken him with him? Why had he left him out here with her? He swallowed his spit, afraid to speak, afraid she'd recognize his voice. He placed a hand on his helmet and tipped it forward a little so she couldn't see his eyes.
His brilliantly glowing eyes.
He was the only known person with Mako enhanced blood that wasn't a part of SOLDIER. He was so close to becoming a SOLDIER. He'd passed all the tests, but when he'd received the Mako injections, his body reacted in a never-before-seen way. The ShinRa officials were afraid of what he could do, and forced him to remain in the lower ranks.
At least, that's what he told himself.
He thought back to when they -Sephiroth, Zack, another grunt and himself- had arrived in Nibelheim. When they first walked in, she had volunteered to be their guide. Just like that. Offering to take four men to the mountains all by herself. He'd almost protested before he remembered he wasn't supposed to be himself. He thought back to the moment his teammate had fallen to his death just moments ago. The look of fear embedded in his eyes as he drooped to the ground below. He thought back to what Zack had said when she'd asked him if he knew a blond SOLDIER named Cloud. He stroked his chin and pretended to think, eventually shaking his head 'no.' Cloud released the breath he hadn't realized he was holding. After all, she was only worried about him.
Wait a minute. She was worried about him? Why? Why was she so worried about him? Did she want to be rescued that badly?
He caught a motion out of the corner of his eye and glanced back up. She was taking off her brown cowboy hat and shaking her head. Her long brown hair shimmered in the sunlight as she shook it out, letting it settle down her back. She turned around to face him, fidgeting with her hat. He felt his breath freeze in his lungs when she looked at him. The roller coaster ride his stomach was taking helped to keep him quiet. He forced himself to look at the rock behind her, the rusted railing of the reactor stairs, the ShinRa symbol on the tanks to his right, anything. Anything but her.
She seemed a bit nervous as she approached him, her hands behind her back. She bit her lip as she spoke, "I… um… I…"
The second her voice filled the clear valley his attention was on her. Two years of military training kicked in and he took an absent-minded step back, away from her. He watched her lips. Her pink lips. That's all it took. One word shot to his mind, 'Cute.' He shook his head ever so slightly. Since when did he use the word 'cute?' Cloud Strife saying cute was like an alligator petting a bunny.
"I didn't…" She raised a hand towards him. He jumped back, just out of her reach. She paused, hurt by his reaction. She took a deep breath, and spoke again, "I just wanted to say I was sorry. I know it's not your fault we're out here. I-I didn't mean to be so… mean." She cringed as if she was fighting a battle in her mind. He dismissed the thought and nodded to show his understanding. She shrugged a little and he took another step back.
Her eyes narrowed in annoyance and she jammed her hands onto her hips. She almost shouted, "I'm not really all that horrible, you know."
He eyed her warily. She was almost scaring him, her bluntness repeatedly coming and going. And then it hit him. She was trying hard to be an adult, to give ShinRa a good impression of her town. Trying and failing. She had no idea that he already knew all about Nibelheim, and wasn't even considering what she was saying as a representation of the village. The thought almost made him laugh.
She smiled, "You know…" She locked her hands behind her back and took a step closer. He shifted uncomfortably, unsure of what she'd do next. "With you backing up like that, it makes me feel pretty unwanted. Maybe I should just go find the others." She looked up at him through her lashes. His jaw tightened as her shirt slipped a little, revealing more then she must've realized. He forced his attention to her face just as she turned and dashed past him up the stairs to the reactor. She made it up three steps before his reflexes kicked in and he took a step, reaching out and grabbing her wrist with one fluid motion.
She turned around, laughing. Somehow, her reaction didn't surprise him. "See? You don't burst into flame if you get too close to me," she grinned. He felt his heart flutter at the sound of her laughter.
He let out another laugh-like snort as he took a step up to make himself more comfortable. He felt his leg run alongside hers as he did so.
"I really am sorry. I didn't mean to sound angry at you." She twisted slightly and looked at him innocently.
Was she… flirting with him? He shook his head ever so slightly, telling himself that was stupid.
"I'm sorry you got stuck out here with me."
He shrugged a little, embarrassed. He realized just how close they were and flicked his eyes upward to look into hers. Her eyes widened as she must have noticed the same thing. He took a step back, not wanting to lead her on while pretending to be someone else. She didn't seem all that insulted, so he let it go.
She stepped back down two steps and sat on the last one, patting the spot beside her. "You can come sit down," she gave him a pleading smile.
He hesitated for a minute before noticing her hopeful expression. He gave in, unable to refuse her anything. He took a deep breath and stepped down, standing directly in front of her hand, waiting for her to move it. When she finally noticed what he was waiting for, she moved her hand to her lap and he sat down directly beside her. She gave him a small smile as he shifted, trying to find a comfortable position. He gave up and let his muscles relax.
She tugged her knees to her chest and stared down the path to the village. "You have, you know?" she looked sideways at him, "Taken good care of me." Was she embarrassed? She continued, "Coming up here? Those monsters? I didn't even get a chance to fight any of them, you were always there first. I know you think I'm just a girl and I can't fight, but I can. I come up here all the time."
He felt himself stiffen under the bombardment of her kind words. Why was he such a coward? All it would take is one swift movement; just one hand to remove his helmet. Show her who he really was… But... wait… If he took off his headgear, she'd only be angry with him for lying.
She ignored him and kept talking, "It's not that I'm not used to taking care of myself, it was just…" She paused and looked at her knees, "It was nice of you to watch out for me, that's all. So, thank you."
He started fighting the urge to rip off his helmet. He felt his cheeks flush and mumbled a quick, "You're welcome." She glanced at him and grinned. He felt his blush deepen. He looked away, towards the mountains, towards anything; anything but her. He silently cursed Zack once more for leaving him out here with her.
"Let me see your hand."
His head snapped back towards her, utterly confused.
She extended her hands towards him, indicating for him to do the same. "Come on. Your hand. The one that hurts. I saw you block that monster's snout with your palm when he almost bit you. I've had to do that before too. I know their noses are like rocks and it really hurts when they smack into you that way. I can make it better. Give me your hand."
He slid away from her to get a better position. He hesitantly lifted his left hand and slowly moved it towards her. She gently took his hand in both of hers and scooted closer to him, pressing her legs against his. He felt himself stiffen as he felt he body heat from her bare legs seep through his standard-issue ShinRa pants. He was barely aware of his glove getting tugged off and two soft hands gently caressing his slightly calloused, long-fingered hand. She pulled his hand closer to her and he shifted to make himself more comfortable. He twisted slightly to his right, closer to her, and placed his uninjured hand on the stair behind her, leaning most of his weight onto it. She seemed to be busying herself becoming familiar with his hand and hadn't noticed how close he'd gotten.
If he turned his head a little more, he'd be breathing in her ear; instead, he occupied himself watching what she was doing.
"See? I knew you'd hurt yourself." She rotated his hand in hers, examining the full extent of his injury. He inhaled sharply when he felt the tickle of her fingernail trace the quickly-forming bruise. He continued to hold his breath as her thumbs formed small, quick circles on his palms. He closed his eyes as the hypnotic massage went on and on. He felt his hand flip over and she rubbed each knuckle individually. He felt a low moan escape his throat as her touch soothed his aching joints. She smiled.
Her soft, cool hands reminded him of the time he wound up in the snow on his way to Modeoheim. His first mission. A monster attacked the helicopter he was taking and took it out of the air. That was when he'd first met Zack, too. They became best friends over their mutual country roots.
He was tugged away from his memories when she pulled his hand up to her lips. He stared in shock while she gently blew on his fingertips. "Master Zangan says that's for luck," she explained, turning ever so slightly so she could see him. They were still very close, the side of his helmet brushing alongside her temple. He smiled to show his appreciation for her help. She let out a weak laugh and set his hand back in his lap, "There. Now it won't be stiff in the morning." She slid slightly to her right and stood.
The only thoughts circling in his mind were consisting of how beautiful she was and how vulnerable she seemed at the moment. Without thinking it through, he reached out and caught her wrist, pulling her back towards him.
Suddenly, all his senses went on high alert as he felt a monster near. A bright circle of runes and light formed on the ground. Shit. Something started crawling out of center of the glowing pattern. It was alive. The creature was huge and reeked of rusted metal and powerful materia. Several men in suits came running up towards it. Turks. What were they there for? The monster opened it maw and a supercharged bolt of materia-formed lightning shot out, heading straight for her. All Cloud could think about was seeing her to safety. Nothing else seemed to matter at the moment.
"If you get really famous and I'm ever in a bind… you'll come save me, all right?"
"If I'm ever in trouble, my hero will come and rescue me. I want to experience that at least once."
"Come on! Promise me!"
"All right, I promise."
Their promise of two years flew through his mind as he dove in the way of the spell. It hit him dead on and he glanced down quickly enough to see blood soaking his shirt before slumping to his knees.
This story is based off of Kitsune13's For Their Own Good, or to be more exact, Chapter Seven: Taking Care. The conversations and storyline are Kitsune13's, minus the promise at the end, which is taken directly from the game. The wording of the rest of the story is mine. I made up the Turks part, though. In Kitsune13's story, it never says who the uniformed men are, and the Turks were all I could come up with. So, I apologize if that's not who that was supposed to be.
Also, I cleared up the fact concerning Cloud's Mako eyes after writing this. Ya know, the whole 'he didn't get the Mako until he was experimented on after the reactor sequence' stuff. I liked the part about his eyes that I'd already written, though, so I left it.
I hope you enjoy this story, as I enjoyed writing it! Please review! Oh, and the stories called 'Stray' in Kitsue13's drabble folder are pretty good, too. I recommend them.