Author's Note: The strangest thoughts come into my head at the strangest times...
Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VII. *sigh* I own... THIS FISH! *holds up chopsticks* Hm. Well, it was here a minute ago...
"Good. You fight like the SOLDIER you once claimed to be." ~ Rufus ShinRa
Left, right, left, right!
Cloud Strife marched along with his fellow cadets into the training area for their daily drilling, dread settling into his stomach. He hated drilling. Every day meant hours of marching, combat, and target practice that left every one of their non-Mako-enhanced bodies screaming with pain. It had been all he could do to drag his sore carcass of bed that morning.
But that was not the only reason he despised his training.
Clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp!
A grimace formed on Cloud's face as he noticed the inevitable. His left sock, which did not quite reach his knee, had begun to move on its own against his skin instead of staying tight in one place as it should. Millimeter by millimeter, it started a slow descent slipping down his calf.
Cloud's eye twitched.
Gosh darn it, socks! Stay up!
Pursing his lips, Cloud snuck a discreet glance in the direction of their instructor. The burly man watched them like a hawk, Mako-blue eyes boring into each cadet's skull. Narrowing his eyes, Cloud waited until he glanced toward the other end of the line before he made his move.
Cloud lifted his left leg and jammed his hands into his boot to fish around for his lost sock. Several of the other boys around him snickered as he hopped along on one foot while he yanked the offending piece of material back up. Instructor Davis turned his attention back to the center of the line just after Cloud had lowered his foot to the floor. The man suspected nothing.
And so his day continued on. Every step he took brought his socks down another inch until they bunched around his ankles and he was forced to pull them back up before they disappeared into his boots. Yesterday, one had gotten past his heel and no matter what he did, he couldn't retrieve it. So, he'd gone on marching, attempting to ignore the lump underneath his foot.
Finally, the ragged, sweating cadets were lined up in the middle of the training room. Instructor Davis stood in front of them, hard features attempting to twist into a some semblance of a smile.
"Well, for a bunch of backwater slum-rats, some of you grunts show promise," he announced in a booming voice. "The Firsts have been watching you lot, so you better be good for them."
The SOLDIER Firsts have been watching us? Cloud visibly paled, glancing down at his boots. The cadet beside him giggled, earning a sharp elbow in the gut from the distressed blond. I'll never make SOLDIER at this rate! All this time I've been sneaking to pull my socks up when no one is looking and they saw? NOOOOOO! You've ruined my life, you stupid socks! I'm going to burn you the second I get my hands on you!
Before he could fake passing out or melt into a puddle of goo, the doors slid open.
First in strode Angeal Hewley. Cloud's heart skipped a few beats as he took in the sheer size of the man. Nightmarish images started to form in his head of Commander Hewley twisting him into a pretzel or hanging his dead body on a hook to use as a punching bag. Some little part in his mind pointed out that Hewley was one of the most honorable men in SOLDIER, but the rest of him was too busy trembling in fear to pay much attention to trivial details.
Next came Genesis Rhapsodos with a swagger in his step and a frightening glint in his eyes. It was said that the man was a poet and enjoyed books over battle, but the cadets knew differently. Cloud had heard rumors of Commander Rhapsodos' use of cadets for materia practice. Many an infantryman had been sent to the infirmary by his hands. So much so that every training incident was blamed on him.
Finally, General Sephiroth entered the room, and there was nothing more to say.
Sephiroth had seen Cloud fumbling to pull up his socks for the past six weeks.
Were he not rooted to the spot in absolute mortification, he would have impaled himself on Commander Rhapsodos' crimson blade right then and there.
Instructor Davis let an evil grin distort his face. "Let's see how well you mutts perform under pressure," he bellowed, laughing as he began to bark orders at them.
Numb, Cloud stumbled after his fellow cadets as they began to run through their drills. This could not be happening. He'd come to join SOLDIER, not be kicked out of ShinRa just because his socks couldn't stay up. This was almost worse than the dream he'd had about Sephiroth in a pink Lolita dress.
Great. Perfect time to remember that.
By the time they were finished, both of Cloud's socks had wormed their way down to his toes. It was uncomfortable and lumpy and drove him absolutely crazy, but he hadn't given in to the urge to lean down and shimmy them back up. He was almost proud of himself. Almost, since he had yet to actually make it out of the training room without getting flayed alive and sent back home.
"Alright," Davis said, after getting nods from all three Firsts, "you're all dismissed."
Cloud attempted to act natural as he trailed behind to head for the showers. Just another twenty meters and he would be free!
From his left, Commander Rhapsodos approached at a fairly casual pace. Every muscle in Cloud's body suddenly stopped working and he was forced to halt and wait for his life to end.
"Do you have trouble walking, Strife?"
"Then just what on Gaia do you call that limping excuse for a march?"
Cloud's blue eyes widened. They don't know about my socks? "W-well, Sir..."
"Spit it out, Cadet."
"U-Um... Mysockskeepfallingdown," he muttered, a blush coming up to stain his cheeks.
Apparently, Genesis wasn't listening as attentively as he pretended. He leaned forward, eyebrows knitted together. "Excuse me?"
"My socks keep falling down," he said, a little louder.
The redhead blinked. "Your... what?"
Cloud's cheeks heated up when he realized several of his peers had stopped to watch their exchange. "My socks, Sir."
For a moment, the man was silent, staring at the cadet as if he'd suddenly sprouted a second head. And then, his mouth twitched.
Red-leather gloves clenched and unclenched as he quite obviously fought the smile that threatened to break out. When that didn't work, he tried to cover it with the back of his hand. It almost worked until a tiny giggle escaped. The giggle, now freed from its constraints, brought a few of its friends along until the general's shoulders were shaking with nearly-silent amusement. Attempting to compose himself, Genesis buried his face in both hands, but was powerless against the force of the laughter that bashed through his defenses. Cloud watched as he finally doubled over in hysterics. The entire room came to a halt, including Sephiroth and Angeal, to witness the poor blond being humiliated by one of the top Firsts in the company.
Gulping in air, Genesis finally spoke amidst his mirth. "Y-you've been," he paused here to smother another burst of laughter, "p-pulling up your... socks, Cadet?"
Cloud fixed his eyes on the ground. "Yes, Sir."
"I-I have to sit down," Genesis sputtered, collapsing to the floor. He eventually calmed down enough to speak clearly. "Why do your socks fall down?"
"They don't quite reach m-my knees, Sir..."
"You haven't pulled them up since we arrived (giggle).Where are your socks now, Cadet?"
Unable to speak, Cloud simply pointed at his toes.
Genesis pointed as well to confirm.
Cloud nodded morosely.
Genesis motioned for Cloud to come closer. The cadet did as he was told and let Genesis tug at one of his boots until it popped off. For a long moment, he just stared at Cloud's bare foot before turning his attention to the boot in his hand and fishing out the sock. Or, the deformed ball that was supposed to be the sock.
The general laughed so hard that he cried. And Cloud just cried.
"I-I d-don't know why it's so funny!" Genesis yelled at himself, even as he clutched his aching stomach. "Th-they're just... socks!"
Through his mortification and utter humiliation, Cloud sniffled and set his jaw. He ignored the gasps of the other cadets around him as he swooped down, snatched both his boot and his balled up sock and bolted for the door.
Cloud tried to tune out the snickers of the other cadets as he walked into the locker room. He thought about simply leaving Midgar last night, but the idea seemed too rash. After all, he was simply upset. It wasn't likely that he would get kicked out of ShinRa just because standard issue socks didn't come in his size. That would be cruel and unusual and totally something ShinRa would do.
Nevertheless, it had been difficult to convince himself to show his face at the training room that morning.
He opened his locker to see an innocently folded piece of paper sitting upon a pair of black socks.
I would like to apologize for my actions yesterday. I don't normally fall apart like that; I'd had an appointment with Dr. Hojo earlier, whereas I usually see Hollander and I'll just say things didn't go as well as I'd hoped. Needless to say, I was a little more... emotional than normal.
I hope these socks fit you a little better than your old ones. If not, come see me. If they do, come see me anyway. I've noticed your sword combat could be a little better, since you've obviously had other matters on your mind over the past few weeks.
P.S. - When I was a Third, I lost my belt for almost two weeks and was not given a replacement. Fighting a Behemoth with your pants at your knees is extremely difficult, but not impossible.
Cloud almost, almost started crying again.
The socks fit, and he made it through training for the first time without having to reach down and pull them back up. While extraordinarily grateful that his burden had been lifted without getting him thrown out of the army, Cloud made a mental note to ask the commander about that Behemoth...
A/N: So, I was taking a walk around the neighborhood when my socks kept falling down...
Thank you for reading!