A/N: Somehow don't ask me how, my small drabble folder (that everyone seems to have) of collections between Denzel and Cloud got deleted. Most likely due to my lack of attention at the time when I was sorting through things and deleted the wrong thing... Yes that is stupid and I totally agree with all of you. BUT lucky, I still had this stashed away somewhere and is by far my favourite of the drabbles I've written so far.

Also those of you who are following my main story 'Escape' do not worry I plan to update it this following week. As a mini celebration of the end of January Exams (Well for me anyways)

So enjoy.



Denzel stared at his comic that was carefully hidden in the middle of his maths book. He peered over it and saw Marlene's deep brown eyes boring right through him with an accusing look like she could see straight through his maths book and see what he was really reading. The boy huffed loudly and brought the book up in front of his face and carried on reading. His and Marlene's homework took up one of Tifa's tables in her bar with the main purpose being that she could keep an eye on them. Denzel smirked at knowing he was outwitting two of the planet's heroes. Although Cloud would throw him an occasional stare with a raised eyebrow that simply said 'I know what you're doing.' Cloud didn't have x-ray vision like the heroes in his comic because of that mako inside of him; did he? Maybe that was the reason the blonde stared at Tifa and when she saw him he would always blush.

The thought made Denzel shiver and he consciously lowered his book under the table away from Cloud's x-ray vision. He cast a quick glance at the young man in the corner who was currently pouring over another map and marking out his next route. He looked back to Marlene and saw her own glare. "What?" He hissed as quiet as possible. Tifa had once scared the two of them by saying Cloud had amazing hearing and can hear if they're sleeping or not back on Marlene's birthday.

"I know what you're doing!" She answered, hissing quietly as possible in return. Denzel looked to the blonde and saw he had barely moved, the man had to be too deep into planning his routes. Denzel watched as Tifa walked back into the bar and both he and Marlene turned to their homework at her arrival. She gave them both a satisfied smile, before disappearing back into her store room.

"Don't be nosy." Denzel muttered back, heaving his comic/maths book back in front of him as Marlene sighed.

Denzel carried on reading his comic and suddenly paused. He'd never really thought that much about his comics before and he frowned at himself for not realising earlier. Why do all these heroes wear masks? Denzel looked up at his own hero and then back at his comic. Cloud didn't walk round with a mask on when he went after the three silver haired triplets. Neither did Tifa for that matter, or Barret. That guy Vincent almost did, but that was his weird cape-scarf thing so that didn't really count.

Then why do these heroes wear masks? He couldn't even being to clutch at an answer. Why wouldn't they want people to know what they did? They'd be famous and everyone would love them. Deciding he needed answers he thought he'd question an actual hero and find it out once and for all.

The ten year old pushed himself out of his seat and Marlene gave him a look that read don't-disturb-him-and-do-your-homework all in one. Denzel rolled his eyes, Marlene wasn't Tifa and so he could do what he wanted.

Denzel crossed the bar with his comic hidden in the maths book in hand and heaved himself into the same booth in the corner across from the bar. He sat patiently as he watched his father figure highlight a route and quickly scribble something down. "Something wrong Denzel?" The man asked quietly only glancing a look at the maths book and then letting out a low sigh. "If it's for maths Tifa is your best bet." The man added still not moving his eyes off of his map.

"It's not about maths." Denzel answered catching the young man's mako eyes. He read Cloud's frown like the man was expecting Denzel to ask a horrifying question. "I want to know..." began Denzel, whilst pulling out his comic from in-between the maths book. Cloud issued a small snort of laughter at the sight of the magazine. Denzel knew Cloud wouldn't tell him off, Tifa was always the one who issued punishments. Cloud's only punishment so far was for Denzel to hand him tools whilst he fixed his bike or the truck Tifa occasionally borrowed off of Barret, which in a way Denzel didn't really find a punishment. He liked spending time with the man. "Why do the superheroes wear masks?" Denzel pushed the comic towards Cloud like it was a piece of evidence. Cloud slowly picked it up before flicking through the pages.

Cloud fell into deep thought as he looked at the bright colourful pictures with a smile. He knew why they wore masks and he looked up at Denzel. He sighed with a slight smile, surely it was obvious? "To hide their identity." Cloud replied as he pushed the boy's comic back towards him. The boy sighed and rolled his eyes at the blonde's answer.

"I know that!" Denzel answered back making Cloud lift a sceptical eyebrow at his answer. "Why would they not want people to know their identity?"

Cloud stared at the magazine's cover and at its masked vigilante. What he would have given to have been able to hide behind a mask for the last few years. To be able to lead a normal life and not one as a renown hero.

He knew people came to this bar to see Tifa, he could understand. But when Tifa had said some people came to see him, he felt uncomfortable. Like from now on he'd have to live his life under a microscope.

He'd even occasionally worry if someone ever did something to Tifa or the two kids who he lived with, just to get at him. The thought made him uneasy. Remembering how the triplets had taken Marlene and Denzel along with other kids, knowing he'd come racing like a storming train.

But the normality of a human life had been stripped away from him, thanks to an insane general and a mad scientist. Not a day would go by when someone would stare into his glowing eyes and turn to whoever was besides them and point him out.

What he'd give for a normal life, to just be Cloud Strife. He looked to Denzel and knew the boy was still waiting for an answer. He knew this boy looked up to him he didn't need Tifa to remind him and occasionally he wanted to turn to the kid and tell him he shouldn't look up to him. He was a messed up man, who'd lost his life when he was sixteen and since then he's been following the path fate has set for him. That everyone sees him as a courageous, brave and selfless hero, how very far from the truth they were.

That this boy wanted to practically be him that he wanted to join the army because of him. Cloud could feel the sick twist of irony, remembering how he'd joined the army simply because of a Soldier. He wanted to grip the boy by the shoulders and tell him not to hope to join the army simply because of him.

But now he's trying, struggling to reclaim a normal life, something he doubts will never happen. But he's going to try all the same.

Cloud lifted his eyes and looked to the young boy in front of him. There was still plenty of time before Denzel would even be accepted into the army and until then Cloud could work on his reasons on why he thinks Denzel shouldn't pursue that idea. So, for now he'd deal with the kid's strange questions and will listen to the boy when he thinks he can't hear about how much he wants to be a great fighter.

He heard a short cough and he was brought smashing back into reality and Cloud turned to see Tifa standing expectantly, her arms folded across her chest. "Well?" She asks with a smile. Cloud switches to Denzel and smiles.

Cloud knew the answer straight away. If he could hide behind a mask to achieve the same thing he would, but as he couldn't he'd always make sure he'd come running for the ones he loved and if that was his sole purpose on the planet he'd be happy with that.

"To protect the ones they cherish most."