Miscast by nightbug

Part One: The Spell

Granted, sneaking into the cadet barracks wasn't the smartest thing to do, but when the newest Turk had some free time, he just had to spend it somehow, even if it was carelessly. Reno meandered the halls, actively seeking out mischief. There had to be someone fucking around in there. He just knew it. His trouble-sense was tingling.

Speak of the Devil and he shall appear.

Not too many moments later, Reno found what he was looking for. A knot of furiously whispering cadets. It was after lights out, and several of them were from the same section, he could tell from the numbers stitched into their sleeves. Some of them, though, were a bit too highly ranked to be in the beginners section of the barracks.

Steadily walking closer, the redhead observed a flash of something sparkling. Ooh, a materia. Score!

The stealthy yet casual style of the Turks was completely lost on the oblivious cadets, nearly at each other's throats about something. Failing to hide their voices well, Reno's trained ears caught most of the argument from down the hallway.

"That's not a frog!"

"What are we gonna do?"

"We can't just toss him out looking like that! Someone will get suspicious."

"This is your fault."

"You asses! If it weren't for me, you'd still be licking the Sergeant's boots! So the spell was a little off. It's not my fault. It's this thing's fault."

"He'll tell on us."

"Fuck him! He doesn't have the balls to tell anyone anything. Besides, we could fuck him up right now, make sure he won't squeal to anyone."

The dispute was getting a little bit more heated for Reno's taste. They were bound to do something stupid. One of the larger boys, who belonged in the advance section, was holding something and shaking it roughly. There was the sound of flesh meeting flesh, and Reno decided that it was time to step in.

"Well, what have we got here?" He drawled, sliding out from the shadows with his hands in his pockets. "A little after lights out, isn't it?"

The boys froze, looking ready to scatter. Reno recognized most of their faces as the typical bullies that appeared in ShinRa's rank quite often. Nothing surprising there. What shocked him though, was what the largest idiot-faced goon was holding. It looked like something from the Science department. A boxy apparatus with a green materia clamped into it. Then, in the boy's other hand was a small, fluffy-haired...child?

Huge blue eyes stared at Reno from beneath the shock of spiky blonde before they lit in recognition. Inwardly, Reno shrieked.

Holy SHIT, that's Strife!

Reno's outward appearance remained calm. "Why don't you guys drop 'em?"

The bulkiest of them, looking Reno up and down, snarled. "Mind your own damn business, filthy Turk."

Oh, how that was the very wrong thing to say.

Normally, Reno would have been a bit more level-headed about the name calling. However, his currently tiny friend was sporting a very nasty bruise on his cheek and ribs. He leapt at them without warning. Most of them scattered after the first few punches. Their own retaliatory blows were weak and slow. Reno dodged them easily. His goal was the biggest and stupidest one, but that guy was one stubborn bastard. He went down after two solid hits, but his grip on Cloud was tight. Cloud's white skin was colored with red finger marks by the time Reno was able to wrench him away.

A kick to the boy's side loosened his hold on the materia box, and Reno scooped it up. The others were already fleeing. Reno let them. Their ShinRa ID numbers were already neatly memorized in the Turk's mind. He would report them later, maybe. ShinRa tended to go too lightly on offenses like these. Once he found out how bad Cloud was, they would find themselves on the receiving end of his version of punishment.

"Hey, Cloud?"

The tiny thing in his arms turned to look up at him. The blonde sneezed.

"Damn, that's what you get for going around naked." Reno muttered, taking off his jacket and bundling the boy in it. He caught sight of a pile of discarded cadet clothing. It was most likely Cloud's, but it would do the blonde little good now. He balled it up and chucked it into Cloud's room.

The blonde's penchant for getting himself into trouble was immeasurable. Of course whatever was going on had to happen in front of Cloud's quarters. Now he was two feet tall with a massive head, disproportionate to his puny body, and completely naked.

The Turk stared at Cloud, tucked into the crook of his arm. The blonde looked puzzled. "Hey buddy, can you say something?"

"Aa." Chirped the blonde, drawing a frown across his tiny features.

Reno stilled. That look, it was... adorable. The redhead wasn't into all the cute shit that girls went ga-ga for, but that look made even Reno pause. The small, pout-like frown, beneath tiny nose, and large watery eyes. Cloud's tiny eyebrows were even knitted in an expression of miniscule frustration.

"Weno." Cloud tried again, and looked aghast by the childish speech.

The redhead snorted, the sound coming out against his will. His shoulders were shaking uncontrollably, even as the tiny cadet glared at him from his arms. Miniature fingers pointed to the box Reno held, then to himself.

"Esuna!" Demanded the tiny blonde, but from his small mouth and soft palate, it sounded more like "ethoona!"

Reno looked at the materia, which he recognized as a level 1 Transform materia. From what he had overheard, the shit-for-brains who had cast the spell was trying to cast Toad, but got Mini instead. Made sense since the materia wasn't even leveled up enough for Toad, but those idiots hadn't noticed. However, eyeing the blonde, Reno had to admit that he had never seen a Mini quite turn out like this.

It probably had something to do with the device it was in. Reno had his suspicions that undoing the miscast spell wasn't going to be as easy as slapping Cloud with an Esuna. Plus, there was the question of what the box was, and how'd the brats get a hold of it and the materia. He shared none of his doubts with Cloud, rather liking the fit the Mini Cloud threw.

"Nah. I think I'll keep ya like this. Much cuter this way." He said with a grin.

"Weno!" Squeaked Cloud, blue eyes blazing. He wriggled and hopped, and did something that seemed like a tiny attempt at a punch. It bopped Reno on the nose.

Immobilized, Reno stared at the teeny fist being waved in his face. He clutched Cloud to his chest, nearly smothering the boy in his shirt.

Oh my god. I can't look him in the eye. That was too cute!

"Mmf!" Mini Cloud made a sound of protest, and Reno obligingly loosened his grip. Little hands pushed away from Reno's chest, and Cloud's little mouth opened impossibly wide, sucking in gulps of air. His pale, baby-soft face was flushed with effort.

Big blue eyes narrowed at Reno.

"Twying to kiw me?" He asked warily.

Shit, if he keeps looking at me like that, I swear, I'm gonna cuddle him to death. Or squeeze him or something.

"Maybe." Reno replied, grinning.

Belatedly, he reached around in his pockets. Luckily, he carried a few potions, in case of emergencies. The bruises hadn't left his mind yet, and he was keenly aware of the cadet's lack of defense in this state. "Open up." He said, uncapping a potion. "We gotta do something about those bruises before someone mistakes me as a child-abuser."

"Thut up." Cloud mumbled, reaching for the potion. His hands were too small for the bottle however, and he nearly fumbled it.

Trying not to grin too widely, Reno held the bottle to Cloud's lips. The blonde glared at him before obediently opening his mouth so the Turk could pour its contents down. Reno tilted it slowly, ever aware of the small mouth. Cloud got it down in a few swallows. The bruises faded into faint yellow marks on his skin, and Reno thought that'd be good enough for now.

The blonde twisted to glare at him. "Ihf you eber tew anywun about dis, I'm gonna tew dem about da time you almosht made out wif a dog!" He threatened.

"Yeah, yeah." Reno breezed the threats aside. "Let's get you to a doctor or something. I don't feel like hauling your fat ass around all night."

"'m not fat! You'a jush weak." Cloud shot back.

Pleased that the spell hadn't inhibited the blonde's mentality at all, just his speech and size, Reno trotted away with the Mini Cloud in his arms.

"I can waak." The cadet protested.

"I'm not waiting forever for your midget legs to catch up."

Cloud fell silent, unable to come up with a reply to that. Tiny and helpless, Cloud frowned, staring down at his hands.

"Weno?" He asked, tentatively.

"What's up?" The redhead replied, making good time to the medic assigned to the floor.

"Do we haf to go? Maybe we can wait until it wea's off." Cloud said quietly.

"What? Why?" Reno stared at the blonde.

Cloud looked away. "Dun' wan' twouble."

The Turk sighed, instinctively knowing that Cloud's inferiority complex was rearing its ugly head again. The last thing he wanted was pity, but being a meek and powerless thing wasn't helping either.

"Don't sweat it." He said instead. "The only one's who'll be in trouble will be those little shits that did this to you. We need to get you examined to see what caused this."

"Dey can't haf much MP. It'w wea' off soon." Cloud mumbled stubbornly.

"No excuses." The thought had already crossed Reno's mind. Lugheads like those guys weren't the usual materia masters. They couldn't have had enough MP to hold a spell for a while, but if that had been the case, Cloud would have been normal already. Nope, it had something to do with the device. He probably should send it to be inspected.

Glancing down at the morose blonde in his arms, he sighed inwardly, and changed directions. Cloud really wanted no one to know about this. Honestly, he couldn't blame the kid, it was embarrassing. Didn't make him any less cute for it though. So he veered off toward Turk headquarters instead. He'd turn the device into Tseng and get the dirt on it. Then toss Cloud into the Turk infirmary for good measure. His bases covered, Reno picked up his pace.

The night was wearing on a bit longer than he'd thought, and the others were sure to pick up on the fact that he was missing pretty soon.

The heavy tread of booted feet was caught by his ears. Reno swore silently. He had been hoping to make it out without any further disruptions.

"Aww, man! That mission took way longer than I thought. It's already lights out!" A familiar voice complained loudly.

"Then you'd best leave him be." A smooth deep voice murmured.

Cloud looked up at Reno with wide, fearful eyes. Wordlessly, he pleaded the Turk to do something. This was getting out of hand.

"No way. Just a little peek in on Spiky, then I'll be good to go, yeah?" Reno could hear the grin in that playful tone.

"You are becoming more of a stalker every day." The deep voice said with a note of exasperation.

"Hey, don't be like that. I'm just looking out for his well being." Zack was said as he rounded the corner.

Unable to find a place to hide in time, Reno hastily covered Cloud's head with his jacket. The SOLDIERs spotted him immediately.

"Yo, Reno. What's up!" Zack greeted cheerfully, despite the late hour.

The Turk shrugged. "Got some deliveries to do. Expedited, if ya know what I mean." He held up the materia device and shook it around.

Zack raised a brow. "Tseng running you ragged this late in the game?"

A sigh escaped the redhead's lips. "Always, ya know?"

"This have anything to do with last week's stunt with the re-wired doors in Hojo's department?" The SOLDIER asked with a crooked grin tilting his lips.

"Nah, no idea what you're talking about." Reno replied, smirking. He had changed the pass codes on the doors to activate higher level security whenever a high class badge was swiped. The lower badges reversed it. Hojo sat on lockdown outside his own laboratory, nearly spitting with rage, while waiting for a janitor or intern to timidly open the doors for him.

"Oh, hey. What'cha got there?" Zack asked curiously.

Reno chanced a look down and saw with horror, a tuft of golden blonde hair poking out from beneath his jacket. "A chocobo." He answered instantly.

A tiny foot kicked his stomach under the cloth.

"Like a chick?" Zack's expression had brightened with childish glee.

"Perhaps now is not the time." Sephiroth interrupted, his arms crossed. He was intent on getting to his quarters, but he could not leave the SOLDIER unattended. Who knew what he would do to that poor cadet he so favored, without supervision.

"Something like that." Reno mumbled. "Anyhow, I need to get going."

"Aw, lemme have a look. Please?" Zack begged, giving the Turk his best puppy-eyed stare.

Cloud trembled.

"No, I don't think it's a good idea. I gotta jet." The Turk moved to get around the SOLDIERs, but Zack's energy couldn't be contained.


"Shit!" Reno swore loudly as the jacket was torn from his grip.

Zack stood, frozen in mid-cackle with the jacket still in his hands. Abruptly he straightened and replaced the jacket over the wide-eyed Cloud. He pulled Reno aside.

"Reno." He said seriously.

"What?" The redhead snapped impatiently, alarm bells ringing in his head.

"Give him to me." Zack said just as seriously.

"What!" Reno yelped.

"You heard me. Give!" Zack extended his hands and waggled his fingers like an over-exuberant child.

"No way." The Turk's arms curled around his bundle even tighter, turning away from the cheery SOLDIER.

"C'mon! He's so cute! I just want a snuggle with him for a little! Don't be greedy!" Zack pouted. "I'll tell on you to Cloud!"

A soft sigh could be heard from under the jacket. "Juth because you put a jacket ofer my head, doesent mean dat I can't hear you." Cloud lisped.

"He can talk!" Zack shrieked.

"Of course he can." Reno said with a glare. "It's just Cloud with a miscast Mini on him."

"Woah!" Zack's eyes widened. "I thought you made a doll of him or something."

"What the hell do you take me for? Some kind of sicko like you?" Reno shot back.

Sephiroth stood, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Children." He said sternly. "Can we use our inside voices?" He muttered mockingly. Ignoring their twin looks of surprise, the General swept toward Reno and plucked Mini Cloud from his grasp, re-securing the jacket around the nude form and pulling it away from his face.

He looked down at the terror stricken blonde. "Relax." He murmured, trying to soothe the overly tense boy. He pretty much had figured out that the miscast spell had something to do with the device Reno held. Most likely it had been some clueless morons picking on Strife again. Zack had informed a multitude of times of the bullying the blonde had suffered. This was the first time that the results were so... interesting. "I suppose it would be best to inform the medic?"

"Genewaw." The pale cadet attempted a pathetic salute, eyes locked in a too wide stare.

Sephiroth nearly missed a step in his smooth stride. He cleared his throat. "I believe I'll be taking Cadet Strife."

"Cheater! You just want him because he's cute!" Zack shouted.

"Dude, I had him first. Give him back, he's going with the Turks tonight!" Reno declared.

Sephiroth sighed regally. "It seems that the only way to resolve this matter is to let Strife himself decide." He said calmly. Looking at the bundle cuddled in the crook of one long arm, he asked "Cadet, who would you rather accompany you?"

Thoughtfully, Cloud eyed the three. Zack looked far too happy, even as he shot him a hopeful look. He just knew that the overzealous First would use the miniature form for some kind of scheme, or even, heaven forbid, take pictures. The thing he needed least was lasting evidence of this. The General would be more responsible, but it was humiliating enough as it was to be defenseless and held by the powerful man. He could feel his self-esteem plummeting every second that the General held him.

Cloud answered, "Weno."

"What?" Zack stared at him, crestfallen. "Aw, Spiky! Why?"

"Cuz you'd take pictures." Cloud replied. Unable to dispute the statement, the SOLDIER scratched the back of his head and scuffed a boot.

"They'd be cute pictures." He grumbled in his defense.

Reno, who had done nothing but what Cloud had wanted, grinned. "Alright, hand him over, General." He held out a hand expectantly.

"Hm, no." Sephiroth said. Ignoring the shocked stare from Cloud and Reno, he uncurled the Turk's jacket and threw it to its rightful owner, tucking the blonde within the folds of his own leather coat. "I outrank the cadet in this manner. I believe that it would be his best interest to remain in my care. Good night, gentleman." He said, satisfaction lacing his tone.

Cloud squeaked a protest. "Weno!" His tiny limbs flailing toward the Turk. Sephiroth laid a gloved hand over the blonde's head, gently patting the fluffy spikes.

"Relax," he murmured again.

"What the hell, pulling rank on this?" Zack said, bewildered at his typically reasonable superior's utter abuse of power.

"That little shit." Reno cursed.

The two stared at each other as Sephiroth made his exit. At the same time they bolted, chasing after him, but the General was already at the elevators. He smirked as the doors closed just as they shot around the corner, and he rose to his floor.

Originally I planned this to be a oneshot, but this seemed like a good stopping point. Just a bit of crack I wrote while trying to reclaim the pieces of my mid-terms shattered mind. I've been staring at chibi-Cloud more than I have been studying my notes. I figured that he made the cutest chibi ever, and the Crisis Core world needed more of him, even if in reality, it would look like a misshapen and creepy mutant.