The Best Medicine

By Rhino7

Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, its characters or storyline. This ridiculous little oneshot is mine. Decided to take a break from my more serious stories for some mindless humor. Please don't take this oneshot too seriously. Any OOCness was on purpose for the sake of the funny. This also takes place outside of my Alliance-verse…for obvious reasons. Enjoy!

..:-X-:..

It had become a goal in Yuffie's life to make Leon laugh. She had never said as much, not like her other little schemes or trickeries over the years, but it was obvious that she was taking this endeavor seriously. It wasn't a hairbrained idea. It was a MISSION. And Cid and the others could only watch and be entertained as she failed spectacularly on numerous and increasingly wild occasions.

This most recent effort had landed her in bed with a head cold and a fever, and it had also completely ruined one of Merlin's cauldrons…but that was more amusing than infuriating to Cid. Merlin on the other hand…

"If this shit gives me cancer, I'll be pissed." Cid growled, knocking open the window panes to let the plume of soupy green and yellow smoke vent out of the small house.

Leon was standing outside, opening and closing the front door repeatedly to fan out the ruined spellwork. "You smoke a whole pack on a slow day. I don't think cancer is really one of your concerns."

Cid shot him a narrow look. "Less smart-assin', more fanning."

The younger man just smirked at him and continued to move the door back and forth.

Right after the invasion ten years ago, when the four of them had dragged their sorry selves to Traverse Town after the Heartless took Radiant Garden the first time, it had started. Corny jokes…Such bad, bad jokes that made you wanna grind your molars. But Yuffie had been too young to properly know or tell a good dirty joke, and Leon had been too lost in the abyss of self loathing to recognize humor if it had danced naked in front of him…which had also been attempted on occasion when they were younger.

It had been a combination of annoying and just plain sad. Cid had thought it was a coping mechanism. Yuffie had been so young when the Heartless came that her mind couldn't wrap itself around the trauma. The pranks, the bad jokes, and the funny faces had been chalked up to an inability to handle what she'd been through. The misbehavior was an outlet. Of course, now he knew that that behavior was just Yuffie's personality.

Aerith had offered an alternative explanation. Yuffie understood what had happened to her—what had happened to all of them, their home, their families. But her innocence and her youth had enabled her to do what the two older kids and Cid had been unable to do: move on. There were nightmares, sure, for months, and she acted out and threw tantrums for no discernible reason—like most kids Cid knew—but she didn't revert to childish jokes and mischief to cover up her own inability to cope. She put on the big show of cheeriness, boundless energy, and absolutely no attention span in order to help the other three move on.

That was just laughable.

Cid had been a grown man when they lost their home. Leon and Aerith had still been in those awkward teenaged years, but they had adapted…After Aerith had run out of tears and that one terrifying night when Leon nearly got himself killed in the Third District. Cid let Aerith think what she wanted, but he didn't see much sense in analyzing and philosophizing about every little one-liner and hiccup that a child let out. It didn't matter much anyway, because the girl's attempts at humor fell flat. Like a tortilla.

Aerith gave her sympathy chuckles and Cid threw her the occasional smirk for her efforts, but Leon was a wall. The teenager had had less slack in him than a rope tied to two horses pulling in opposite directions. Yes, sir, the stick in his ass had been wedged in there good. And no amount of running over banana peels or drawing mustaches on every single picture in the hotel was going to un-wedge it.

"This is completely ruined!" Merlin lamented, poking at the melted cauldron with his wand. "This was made of solid lead! It was lined with an enchantment that would make it invulnerable to acidic potion work!"

"You better have insurance, then." Cid snorted, regretting the action as the green fumes stung at his nostrils.

Merlin huffed, straightening. "This is the final straw. Yuffie is 18; that makes her a legal adult who should know by now that this kind of behavior is inexcusable!"

"Yeah, you tell her that." Cid waved his hand through the smoke, ushering it out the window. "The Hell is this shit, anyway?"

Leon stepped outside to use his other arm to work the door, so from inside it looked like the door had come alive and started waving itself around on its own. Merlin pored over the spellbook that Yuffie had hijacked with the other magic materials.

"Hm, it appears as though this monstrosity was a failed attempt to concoct the necessary potion for the Eudaimonia Enchantment." The old wizard explained.

"Euda—" Cid coughed at the fumes. "What now?"

"Eudaimonia Enchantment." Merlin explained, as though to a slow person. "A powerful spell designed to…enhance the momentary mood response of a person."

Cid regarded Merlin with a flat look. "In an actual language?"

Merlin closed the book. "When administered correctly, the spellcaster would be able to temporarily alter a person's state of emotional being…Change their mood, so to speak. Positively, only, of course. Think of it as a…bar of chocolate for the mind." He grinned.

"Or ecstasy." Cid tugged out a cigarette from the pack. "Sounds like the you-da-moana spell could be easily replaced by drugs or anxiety medication."

The sorcerer waved his wand abruptly, casting a short wind spell to blow the remains of the discolored smoke out of the house in one large whoosh. Through the window, Cid heard a few townsfolk yelp in surprise and then Leon coughing loudly.

"That was its original purpose." Merlin tutted. "Before medical science had developed a way to alleviate the psychological symptoms of depression and anxiety, magical spells acted as a remedy to help souls in hurt."

"Blah, blah, blah, basically people drugged each other for funnsies." Cid gestured toward Yuffie's room, "Case in point."

"Case not in point." Merlin began to cast spells at the ruined cauldron, trying to resuscitate it. "This was a gross misrepresentation of the spell's abilities. The enchantment only has one good burst of power to begin with…and it misfired here." He pointed to a particularly mottled part of the cauldron. "It could have easily killed Aerith."

Cid lit his cigarette and slipped it between his lips. "But it didn't. She's fine."

"Oh ho, she was more than fine when it hit her." Merlin remarked. "The potency of this potion nearly curled her toes."

Cid exhaled smoke as he laughed at that. He glanced toward the door, which had stopped flapping as Leon hacked and coughed on the other side of it.

"So this green fog isn't dangerous?" Cid gestured toward the door. "He's not gonna hack up a kidney, is he?"

"Not likely." Merlin adjusted his spectacles. "At this point, the smoke is just residual herbs from the concoction. Some skin irritation, mild twitching, maybe a case of the giggles, but there should be no long lasting effects."

"Then how did Yuffie end up sick like that?" Cid questioned.

"Perhaps she was allergic to one of the ingredients…She surely breathed in enough of this stuff…Or she could have—I don't know. It's like trying to reconstruct a crime scene!" Merlin wailed, mourning his precious cauldron.

Shaking his head at the man, Cid puffed on his cigarette, stepping outside to enjoy his nicotine smoke without the green giggle smoke getting in the way. Leon had gotten his breath back, and was assuring a few people in the Borough that the green smoke wasn't some new Heartless bio-attack or whatever the paranoia of the week was.

As they had gotten older, the jokes had gotten better—barely—and the funny faces and pranks had dissolved into something like slapstick gone wrong. Aerith honestly laughed a few times—when she caught her sleep deprived—and even if he didn't laugh, Cid could appreciate the attempt. They had talked Leon away from the ledge by then, but the reptile brain was still focused solely on Heartless, primarily killing the Heartless and saving people from the darkness.

But after he reached the legal drinking age and took on Cid's notorious rum challenge, Yuffie got a taste of the good stuff when it turned out that Leon was a happy drunk. Yeah, they were all surprised on that one. Cid had had a first aid kit and a straight jacket armed and ready, but instead of picking fights and tearing the place down, Leon had let a laugh escape instead when Yuffie gave a surprisingly witty retort to something Cid had said.

Albeit, it was more of a half chuckle or a glorified snort than what could be classified as laughter, but the guy might as well have rolled over and split a gut for the utter triumph that spread across Yuffie's face. And in that moment, Cid had realized that Aerith had been right. The younger girl wasn't trying to cope with her own inner demons or sort through her own trauma. She wanted to…what was it…'turn those frowns upside down'. Or whatever the Hell that phrase is.

And while Aerith and Cid had indulged her a few times over the years, Leon never did. Giving slack wasn't in his nature, not in war, not in love, not in a game of checkers, so why in the efforts of a little girl? And that challenge was all Yuffie needed to fuel a fire that would burn for nearly a decade…All from a chuckle.

But she had to one-up her previous victory, it seemed. She wanted to get a real, genuine laugh out of the man. No drugs, no alcohol, and no funny business to it. Like she needed specifically his validation that she was indeed funny. And in that moment, Cid had realized that Aerith had underestimated the girl in her initial theory. Yuffie had been trying from the get-go to get them all to laugh, but she saved her best jokes and greatest punchlines for Leon.

That crazy little imp had developed a crush on the older boy.

Lord save them all, because there was only one way that would go, and it wasn't the way that led to save-the-dates.

"What did he say?" Leon was asking. "She was trying to make Pneumonia?"

"Eudaya—Judi—Rutabaga—" Cid grunted. "Ah, some kinda happy pants potion. Sounded more like the gateway spell to hard drugs to me."

Leon snorted, "Hard drugs is the last thing Yuffie needs."

"Other'n a sedative." Cid took a drag from his cigarette. "Merlin said some aftereffects might include the giggles, so if you so much as crack a grin, I'm outta here."

"Everything tastes like pomegranate." Leon said flatly, swatting away the final wisps of the green smoke. "No worries here. What about you?"

"We're grown men. Grown men don't 'giggle'." Cid grumbled.

Leon shook his head in amusement. "Whatever." He looked back at the house. "Is it safe in there?"

"From the fumes? Yeah. From the women? Ahhh, I'd give it a few minutes." Cid folded his arms.

"I need to patrol the Ravine Trail anyway." Leon shrugged, ducking into the house just long enough to fetch the Gunblade before stepping back out.

Cid grunted and put the cigarette out with his boot, braving back into Merlin's house after Leon left. The smoke hadn't reached the back part of the house, the new additions that gave the house more bedrooms and living space. He could hear Yuffie tossing around in bed and Aerith humming in the kitchen, cooking some of her famous onion soup for the girl. It was famous because when you were congested and had sinus pressure and being sick had robbed you of your taste buds, that soup was a miracle worker. Absolutely any other time than that, it was a solid kick in the face, guaranteed to make your eyes water, your nose run, and possibly your gums bleed.

He would still swear that Aerith made a batch for Cloud once when he was sick—but not sick enough—and the blond had lost vision in his right eye for a few hours afterward. So Yuffie's sudden cold must have been pretty bad. He decided he should probably check on her. In any case, he needed to make sure the immediate affects had worn off on Aerith, as embarrassing and uncomfortable as that question was going to be.

"I smell the Unholy Brew." He remarked, walking into the kitchen.

Aerith was cooking the soup on the stove top. "I wish you wouldn't call it that." She replied, stirring the pot. "It's nipped your ills in the bud plenty of times."

"Yeah, and nearly gave old Cloud a seizure."

"It did not."

"Well, I still say that if he went to battle his darkness with a pot of this, that Sephiroth guy would not be a problem ever again."

"Cid, is there a reason you're in my kitchen?" She got to the point directly.

He leaned carefully away from the steam of the soup. "Just heard you got a faceful of that crap Yuffie was trying to make. Wanted to make sure you hadn't short circuited."

The young woman shifted on her feet, getting a bowl out of the cabinet. "I'm fine." She answered quickly. "Yuffie, however, is sick. It's like the worst stages of a sinus infection and a head cold all hit her at once." She shook her head. "What was she thinking?"

"My theory is she was trying to mix up a batch of happy juice for Leon or some shit." Cid shrugged. "Merlin said the enchantment potion she was working on would have turned him into Giggles McSunshine."

"Did it…work?" Aerith lifted an eyebrow.

Cid deadpanned. "Pretty sure everybody got a heavy dose of it in the house."

"Where…is Leon?" Aerith noted the man's absence.

"He tried to hug me…so I killed him." Cid said, and then grabbed a beer from the fridge. "No, he had to run a patrol out at the Ravine Trail."

Aerith poured the soup into a bowl and set up a little food tray for the girl. It was well known that Yuffie turned into a terror when she was sick. Cid had seen his share of comrades fall prey to the Man Cold, where able bodied men were turned into whiny, useless blobs when they got sick. He knew he and Leon were no exception. But after the Great Right Eye Blindness Incident a year ago, they were less inclined to submit themselves to Aerith's caretaking.

"Can you take this in to her?" Aerith asked.

"Why me? You cooked the Unholy Brew. You don't want to serve it?" Cid inquired.

"No, it's just…I'm already trying to fight off allergy season and I'm afraid that if I'm around her too much, I'll just get sick faster." She explained.

"So you want me to get sick instead." Cid remarked. "Nice."

Aerith gave him a flat look. "Oh, don't play that. You get sick three times less often than we do. Your white blood cells practically carry sniper rifles."

Cid had to grin at that. "Damn straight."

He didn't fight her too much after that, taking the tray of volatile soup into Yuffie's room. The girl was huddled in a fetal ball under the blankets, one hand up pinching the bridge of her nose and coughing occasionally. Her nose was red, her eyes were puffy, and her coughing was thick and phlegmy.

She peeked open one eye when she heard him walk in. "The Great Ninja Yuffie." She moaned, staying curled on her side. "Felled by a sinus cold. I want that on my tombstone."

Cid rolled his eyes, "Soup."

Yuffie coughed and made a show of pathetically sitting up. "Remember me as I was, Cid, when I was young and beautiful and strong. I'm leaving my shuriken to Tifa in my will."

"I'm sure she'll be overjoyed." He remarked. "Here."

He set the tray across her lap. Yuffie liked to exaggerate and lap up the attention, but no amount of good acting could overpower the fumes of the Unholy Brew. So when she didn't recoil after a deep breath, Cid knew she wasn't faking this cold. Clearing her throat a few times, she picked up her spoon to start at it.

Cid deftly felt her forehead and then withdrew. Hardly enough fever to call it a fever, but just present enough for her to milk it for a day or two.

"Is Aerith okay?" She asked, sipping at the broth.

"Yeah." He answered honestly. "Merlin's pissed about his cauldron though."

"I wasn't trying to blow it up." She said, sniffing against a stuffed nose.

"No, you were just trying to give everyone in a fifty foot radius an orgasm."

She looked up at him with wide eyes at that. "No way…"

"Of course not!" Cid groaned, "But Merlin said you fucked up that recipe pretty good."

"He did not."

"Not in those words, fine, but you did." He gave her a sideways look. "The entire living room smells like pomegranate."

She slurped at the soup for a few quiet seconds before looking at him. "But everybody is okay. Aerith's okay. You're okay. Merlin's okay."

"Leon's okay." Cid fought not to roll his eyes.

Yuffie caught his tone and narrowed her eyes, lifting her spoon. "I'll get him next time. I got him to laugh once. I can do it again."

"He was drunk then and you got lucky." He commented.

He had been tempted on occasion to point out how doomed this little venture was, but he just didn't have the heart. It wasn't like Yuffie was falling over herself trying to win Leon's affections, but then again, her attempts to get his attention were less than subtle. Ah, Hell, maybe Aerith was finally getting to him if he was mulling over this hormonal horseshit.

They were a family, the four of them. They had spent nearly a decade taking care of each other and keeping each other sane. When they moved back to Radiant Garden from Traverse Town, Merlin had joined their little group, and some time later, Tifa had taken to hanging around. Cloud had been resistant, but Aerith had the puppy eyes to convince an ice berg to throw itself into a volcano, so the blond had caved soon enough.

And after so long around each other, seeing the highs and lows, the good moments and the ugly ones, those three kids that Cid had escaped with had become as close to siblings as three people could get without sharing DNA. Cid didn't consider himself a father figure, more like a cool uncle or much older brother maybe…but the age difference gave him the outsider perspective into what was going on.

Like the fact that Leon had put both Aerith and Yuffie in the sister category, and Yuffie clearly did not want to be regarded as a sister. Which made everything so damn messy and complicated. Cid thought it might have worked itself out as she got older, but then Cloud and Aerith started getting closer and seeing those two begin their relationship—which, by the way, was like watching two baby giraffes stagger around in an emotional water hole—had woken up Yuffie's romantic side.

After all, that seemed pretty convenient: three males and three females living in close proximity to each other. To a teenaged girl's mind, apparently that was fate. Cloud and Aerith, herself and Leon…she must have hung Cid and Tifa out to dry then. Problem was, even after ten years, Leon still had that pesky little brain tumor named Rinoa.

Cid had never met the woman, but she must have been a doozy to screw that boy's head for so long. Or maybe it was just the failure to save her that was torturing him. He also theorized that it was the similarities between Rinoa and Tifa that had allowed Leon and Tifa to become such quick friends. Well, that and Tifa's rack. Cid couldn't judge any red blooded man for that.

Yuffie managed to put down about half the soup, and Cid folded his arms.

"Eudamonia Enchantment, eh?" He finally prompted.

She recoiled slightly, ears turning red. "It was worth a shot."

The aroma of Aerith's soup was ballooning in the room and making the atmosphere unbearable. Not to mention Cid could sense some major teenaged girl angst coming on. So he decided to make a subtle retreat.

"Dumbass." He grunted, leaving her to her soup.

Heading downstairs, he started to march outside to take a proper smoke and passed Cloud, who was coming in.

The blond stopped short with a grimace. "Why does it smell like pomegranate in here?"

..:-X-:..

Two days later, the corpse of Merlin's cauldron had been removed, the smell had dissipated from the house, and Yuffie was back to 100 percent—Kingdom Hearts protect them.

Cid had opted to work on the computer indoors that day, since Radiant Garden was under a 48 hour heat warning. Leon, Yuffie, Cloud, and Tifa had taken shorter rotating shifts patrolling the town, and each time, they came back dripping with sweat and irritable.

Luckily, Aerith was armed with bottles of water and ice cream for whenever they dragged their sorry selves back to the house. Merlin was still sore at Yuffie, but the old codger had a dozen other cauldrons just like the destroyed one, so Cid found it hard to sympathize.

At about four o'clock that afternoon, Cid decided to give his eyes a break from the computer screen and leaned away from the desk.

Tifa was out on patrol at the moment. Cloud had returned just a few minutes earlier, half-dehydrated and exhausted, and had bumbled back into the kitchen where Aerith and Leon were. Yuffie was in the house…somewhere…but Cid couldn't muster the enthusiasm to really care.

The girl seemed to have mellowed slightly after what had happened a few days earlier. How long that would stick, there was no way to know, but for now, she seemed to be—

Aerith suddenly screamed.

Cid shot to his feet as her yelp was followed by a thud and a gagging noise.

Before he could investigate, Yuffie came tearing out of the kitchen.

"Dammit, dammit, dammit—" She was yammering.

"Yuffie, what's going on?" Cid demanded.

"Need an elixir, need an elixir!" Yuffie scrambled for the healing items' box that they kept handy by the door.

"Oh good God, Yuffie!" Leon barked from the kitchen.

Finding an elixir, she plucked the bottle out of the box, meeting Cid's interrogatory eyes.

"I…may have…put some of Aerith's leftover soup in Cloud's water bottle as a joke." She said sheepishly, hurrying to the kitchen.

"You…what?" Cid's eye twitched.

"Y'know…Squall finds it amusing when Cloud humiliates himself." She tried to justify. "But I guess…because it was so hot outside…Cloud decided to drink the entire bottle at once and…"

Cid heard choking and fitting in the other room. He face palmed.

"Yuffie, get in here!" Aerith shrieked.

With a squeak, the teenager hurried into the kitchen to obey. Cid peered around the corner to investigate for himself.

Most of the scene was blocked by the island counter in the middle of the kitchen, but it looked like Cloud had ended up sprawled on the floor, spasming slightly. Aerith was on her knees beside him, and she snatched the elixir bottle away from Yuffie in a panic.

Cloud had always reacted more strongly to the Unholy Brew than any of the rest of them. Cid chewed on the edge of his toothpick. He was probably allergic to one of the ingredients or something. Hardly fatal, but definitely not pleasant.

And definitely not funny.

Leon appeared as he straightened, having been hidden behind the counter. His face was stone and as soon as what little of Cloud that Cid could see had stopped twitching and fitting, Leon turned and walked stiffly out of the kitchen to the living room where Cid was. Yuffie watched him go, her eyes red and apologetic.

"Cloud?" Aerith was saying. "I think he's coming around. Cloud?"

Cid glanced from that mess to Leon, who ran a hand over his face.

"Everything all right?" He prompted.

Leon held up one index finger, silently asking for a moment.

Cid gave it to him, glancing back to see Cloud sitting up, redder than a tomato and tears of pain mixing with the sweat on his face. He was coherent enough to wave away Aerith's fretting as he got to his feet, unsteadily enough.

And—half-fried from that soup or not—he managed a glare at Yuffie that would have killed a normal person. And for once, instead of shrugging off her victim's anger and tottering on her merry way, Yuffie shrank and made a backwards retreat from the room.

Out of the corner of Cid's eye, he saw Leon buckle slightly against the wall.

Facing the younger man, Cid blinked. "She didn't get you too, did she?"

Leon shook his head, one hand over his mouth as he folded over, looking either about to be sick or…

A snort escaped, and Leon's shoulders trembled with the force of holding back the laughter. Cid deadpanned as Leon held his hand over his mouth, the other arm hooked around his ribs, looking absolutely about to explode. He was shaking all over trying to hold himself together.

"You have got to be kidding me." Cid remarked, glancing into the kitchen again.

Cloud looked almost fully recovered, though still a little twitchy, and was chugging a bottle of actual water this time. Aerith, meanwhile, had stomped out to find Yuffie. Perplexed, Cid looked to Leon again.

The younger man was leaning more heavily against the wall, face flushed and still hoping that one hand over his mouth would stop the laughter.

…Seriously…

Leon and Cloud had always had their rivalry…Shit knows Cid was tired of every little pissing contest between them…but getting your kicks off watching the other suffer?

"You're a sick bastard." Cid smirked at the display.

And here Yuffie wasn't even around to see this.

The remark only served to loosen Leon's bolts faster and a loud burst of noise escaped. Not really a laugh in itself, but a definite precursor to one. He exhaled sharply and sucked in more air.

"Yeah, remember to breathe, sicko." Cid said flatly.

"It hurts." Leon wheezed, and it came out almost in a squeak.

The front door opened just as Leon couldn't take it anymore and sank to his seat on the floor, leaning back against the wall.

Tifa walked in, tugging off her fighting gloves. "Did I just see Aerith chasing Yuffie across the Bailey with a skillet?"

She spotted Leon on the floor, shaking all over, and then looked at Cid, who was just standing there. "Did I miss something?"

Then it happened.

With a hiccup and a gasp, Leon burst out laughing.

It was terrifying.

Cid started in surprise and he heard Cloud drop whatever he'd been holding out of sight in the other room. Tifa's eyes grew immediately to the size of saucers.

And it wasn't just a snicker or a snort. This was a full belly laugh, making Leon's entire body shake with the force of it. He gasped for breath and slumped sideways to his shoulder on the floor. It was so ridiculous-looking and anti-Leon that Cid couldn't help but crack a grin himself. Tifa looked more confused than ever, but she started giggling, just at the absurdity of the whole situation.

Nothing about today could surprise Cid further, but a final reality attempted to: Leon had a contagious laugh. It was loud, it was proud, and used both lungs to fully express itself. Cid had never heard Leon laugh before, hardly beyond a chuckle ever really. Now he could see the validity of Yuffie setting this goal.

Tifa got herself back under control and just watched Leon about to split a gut from his place on the floor. She sauntered over to Cid and started to speak, when—

"Fuck you, Leonhart!" was bellowed from the kitchen by Cloud.

Tifa covered her mouth through a sudden snort and looked sideways at Cid. "Did I miss something?"

Cid snorted and shook his head. "Nah, you skipped the lines and got a front row seat for the show."

It took another fifteen minutes for Leon to compose himself, and by then, Cloud had stomped out, spewing four-letter words at the man. Aerith had returned, skillet intact, stating that Yuffie had taken the next patrol. Then she had taken one look at Leon—still pink in the face and eyes watery—and allowed herself a few giggles…y'know…now that Cloud wasn't having seizures on the kitchen floor.

"So, what do you think her next mission will be?" Tifa asked, after Aerith and Cid explained Operation Make Leon Laugh to her.

Leon didn't respond, lying on the couch with his eyes closed…Over 10 years of overdue laughter hitting a body all at once must have brought on one Hell of a headache…and Aerith was making doubly sure that all of her soup had been disposed of this time.

Cid lit a cigarette and puffed lightly on it, looking at Tifa. "Either the goal to earn Cloud's forgiveness—"

"I think I gave myself an aneurism." Leon grunted from the couch.

"—or the goal to earn Merlin's forgiveness." Cid went on.

"…seriously, I might have internal bleeding." Leon mumbled.

Tifa sighed and looked to him. "Leon, laughter is supposed to make you live longer."

Cid turned back to his computer monitor, not paying attention to whatever smartass remark Leon tossed back. His hands had barely put in his password before a light bulb went off in his head.

"Oh…wait a second." He tapped a few keys and opened a new window.

Tifa swiveled back around to watch him. "What is it?"

Cid opened the security camera file footage on the screen. "We installed security cameras in every room in Merlin's house last month." He deftly maneuvered through the recording. "And guess what we got on camera?"

Tifa scooted closer. "Seriously? You got that whole scene?"

Cid gestured to the screen that read 'kitchen'.

Leon groaned, pressing the heels of his hands over his eyes.

"Hey, Leon." Cid called over. "Turns out we got the whole thing on camera. Wanna watch the replay?"

"What?" Leon peeked out from under his hand at him.

Tifa got comfortable. "I have to see this."

"I don't know if I can handle watching it again." Leon sat up gingerly.

Cid shrugged, "Suit yourself." He hit play.

"No, hey, wait for me." Leon scrambled up and crossed over to where Cid and Tifa were watching the screen.

Behind the trio, the door opened and Cloud walked back in…just in time to see himself on screen choke out and fall out of his chair on the kitchen camera footage. All three of them looked over, snickering at him.

He froze, frowned, and clenched his fists. "I hate you all."

"Aw, don't be like that." Tifa straightened.

"We are no longer friends!" Cloud turned to march out.

"Wait, wait, wait." Leon lifted a hand. "Wait for it!"

Cloud hesitated just long enough for the Cloud on the camera footage to drag himself up…and Aerith chase after Yuffie with a skillet.

Cid snickered as Cloud's face flushed.

"Screw you guys." He barked.

Tifa and Leon just lost it all over again, hanging onto each other to remain upright. They failed spectacularly and tumbled to the floor again. Cloud swore and left again.

Cid put out his cigarette and sat back.

Well, if laughter made you live longer, then their little group had just earned at least another five years.

And that would be worth the cold shoulder from Blondie for the next two weeks.

..:-X-:..

A/N: Poor Cloud. The crap I put this guy through…

This is another notch in my recent non-Alliance-verse thought bubble that Yuffie had a crush on Leon growing up…Who wouldn't? But I love the sibling dynamic between Leon, Yuffie, and Aerith so much, that I just can't seriously ship any of them together.

And I love writing Cid. His surliness makes my day brighter.

Constructive feedback is always welcome!