Cloud Strife (mako_puppet) wrote in project_origins,
Cloud Strife
mako_puppet
project_origins

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Part II


She sighed and frowned, "Those doctors..." If I ever get to see them again...I will punch their lights out. She pulled out one more fragment of glass and stood. "Time for a bath. Just put on your pants afterwards so I can bandage everything else."

Cloud's foot jerked again at the last piece of glass, and he once again showed no sign of the pain since...he had been running with those damaged feet and hadn't noticed. He dropped his foot to the ground and slowly climbed to his feet again and knew the drill, dropping his blooded pants right in the middle of the room. He turned and walked to the bathroom wordlessly, never considering that he shouldn't walk around naked in front of Tifa. "Affirmative," he said as he walked to the bathroom.

Tifa blinked at Cloud's bare backside, before quickly looking across the room at the tattered couch that took up one wall. "I'll...I'll get you some food while you're in there." She went to the fridge and yanked it open, reaching in and pulling out a bottle of water before glancing over her shoulder to see if Cloud was out of sight.

Cloud stepped into the bathroom and looked at the bathtub before eyeing it suspicious. He didn't see and restrains, which initially made him wonder what was going on in this situation. He finally stepped into the bath and sat quietly for a long time before remembering that there would be no nurse to restrain him, an armed guard to shoot him and another nurse to bath him instead of allowing him to do it himself. He looked around the bathroom, and he grabbed some soap, washing down his legs and arms slowly, having to grow used to doing things himself again. He looked away when the soap slipped from his hands and darted across the floor and out the door. Retreive soap? Remain stationary? Ask Tifa? He sat thinking for a moment before he came to a decision and got up out of the bath and wandered back into the room in search of the missing soap bar, dripping wet and still quite naked. He stooped and grabbed the soap, which happened to be under the chair he had sat in previously. He stood and stared at the soap before turning around and walking back into the bathroom, stopping before coming back out and looking at Tifa, still naked. "Soap retrieved," he said, if only to inform her of what he was doing and walked back into the bathroom and got back into the tub.

Tifa closed the fridge after setting out some foods to make some sandwiches for her and Cloud, when suddenly he came out of the bathroom naked and dripping water to pick up a bar of soap, of which he then informed her about. She walked him wander back in and the look of horror in her eyes was obvious. Not horror at the sight of him naked, but that he had been reduced to this...to not even being able to do anything indepently without informing someone. She looked blankly at the wall before she walked over to her bag and pulled out her gloves, slipping them on and going to the punching bag in the corner where she threw a punch with such force it nearly broke the bag.

Cloud finished washing down his body, though he did nearly lose the soap again, but luckily, warrior instincts allowed him to defeat his enemy. He put the soap aside and sat in the bath again, cocking his head at the sound of a punching bag breaking. He could tell that force was being used, meaning that Tifa was angry, possibly frustrated and upset, which was never a good sign in his own mind. He dunked his head under the water and grabbed something that could have been shampoo. It was in a bottle and in the bathroom, so he decided to use it on his hair, despite it smelling flowery. It had to be shampoo. He managed fairly well until the stage where he had to untangle his hair before cleaning out the shampoo and it was literally impossible. He couldn't manage it and sat in the tub for awhile longer. Get sword and cut hair? Remain stationary? Ask Tifa? Again, he needed to come to a decision and he wondered if just ripping his own hair would be productive. For a second time, he climbed out of the bath tub and wandered back into the room, with soapy hair that looked more like a rat's nest than actual hair. He walked over to his sword and started back to the bathroom, looking at Tifa. "Cutting hair."

Tifa stopped mid-punch at the words "cutting hair", she whirled around and yanked her gloves from her hands. "No, no...wait Cloud. I can do it...I can do it." She went over and tentatively took the sword from his hands, propping it against the wall, before she went over and grabbed a comb and scissors from her bag. "Just sit down on the tiolet in the bathroom and I'll cut it for you." She wiped the sheen of sweat from her brow from her quick, but vigorous, workout and gave him a smile; one she hoped would reassure him.

Cloud looked at the sword that was taken away and looked at Tifa then looked back to his sword again. The nurses had given up managing his hair and simply cut it after every bath, but it always grew back long with the medication that he was taking. If it wasn't cut, he was sure it would be considerably longer by now. "Toilet..." he finally nodded his hand and walked back to the bathroom with an, "affirmative." He dunked his head in the bathtub to remove some of the shampoo and set himself down on the toilet, looking to the door to wait for Tifa to come in, touching the wound in his side, noting that it was healing very quickly. It hadn't been too bad a wound, compared to some he had taken.

Tifa walked in a moment later and took a towel from the rack, she handed it to him. "Go ahead and wrap it around your waist." She then grabbed another that she draped around his shoulders. She felt like a nurse in some respects, no longer finding her friend's naked body embarrasing in the least when he obviously needed suck care. She inwardly cursed herself again for what had happened and she nibbled her lip as she tried to push the regret and guilt away.

Cloud stood and wrapped the towel around his waist as instructed and sat down on the toilet again, shifting his head from side to side as a second towel was placed on his shoulders. Perhaps he would be allowed to brush his hair with Tifa so he wouldn't need to have to cut it all the time. "They cut my hair everything bath," he said after a moment. "I was not allowed to bathe myself as anything was used as a weapon. They cut my hair everyday," he informed her, indicating that the hair he had was one day's growth since he hadn't had a bath today.

"Everyday?" She simply nodded and just took it in, obviously something had changed in her friend and soon the mystery would unravel, for now...she was going to act like things were better than they were. "I'll comb and cut it for you then, okay? How long do you want it?" She began to hum softly to herself as she tried to untangle some of the golden mess before her.

Cloud remained staring ahead, unfazed by the questions. "They shaved my head everyday. Less time and effort," he said simply. In an Institute like that, it was easier to keep hair short rather than having a nurse running around brushing everyone's hair. His hair just grew at an excellerated rate. He was that special case that the nurses hated having to bathe and give a hair cut to. He looked over his shoulder at her for a moment, wondering if he had really changed so much since they had last seen each other, though he knew it as true. He had gone downhill before coming back up again in the Institute. He stared at the tub as Tifa hummed and worked, not sure if she wanted to say anything to him.

She decided herself to cut it to just below his shoulders. "I'll keep it long. It'll look good on you, like when you were a kid." She smiled at him in the mirror and worked at getting the snarls and tangles out. "Tell me if it hurts, okay?"

Cloud stared at her from the mirror, noting how he had thinned. He hadn't seen himself in a mirror in the entire time he was in the Institute. He hadn't paid attention in the visitation room and that was his first mirror experience in a long time. In fact, he hadn't noticed the mirror in front of him until Tifa smiled at him. Slowly, he raised a hand and touched his face, feeling it looked pale and hollow, only the haunting eyes something he could remember. Even his hair didn't look the same to him. He stared at the mirror, studying himself before uttering, "I do not feel pain."

She simply nodded at his comment. She was willing to accept anything from her friend, especially after the horrid nights the two had shared when Cloud was the exact opposite of now: when he had been choking on his own tears and fear and... She sighed at the memories of life before she'd checked Cloud into the Institute and they seemed so long ago even though they weren't. "Hey, Cloud? Do you remember when we were playing with scissors and I cut your hair?"

Cloud stared at his reflection for a long while before changing his attention over to staring at the bathwater and noting that the water held a tinge of red from the wound on his side and his feet wounds. In some ways, not feeling physical pain was a blessing that he was not sure he would want to give up, though it made him very dangerous. He looked up at Tifa's question and thought about it for a moment. "Affirmative," he said, about to leave it at that when some semblence of people skills slipped into place, "I was ten. You laughed at me. You're father took me home."

She snipped the blond locks to just below his shoulders, then took up the task of getting the last tangles out; wincing herself at how hard she had to pull, yet Cloud did not seem to mind. "I know. And he made me apologize the next day. I did feel bad, later...about doing that."

Cloud didn't move as his hair was cut away, his head lulling with the movements of her jerks on his tangled mass. It didn't hurt him, a mere dull reminder in the back of his mind that he used to feel more than this before. His gaze focused in on the mirror. "You did it again when I was eleven. It was by accident the second time," he said softly and jerked back with a particularly hard pull. "Cut it short."

"Cut it short? How short?" She looked into the mirror and admired how it fell around his face. "You don't like it like it is right now?"

Cloud looked at his own hair in the mirror. "Cut above the tangles," he said simply, leaning back slightly against Tifa's weight. It felt good to not have to look over his shoulder every moment to guard his own back. "It will grow back by tomorrow."

"Cloud, that's impossible." She frowned. "How can it grow that fast?" She had come to expect the unexpected with Cloud, but even this sounded ludicrous.

"Medication side-effect," he said softly and looked back down at the bath water, not particularly interested in it, but it was better than being stared at like a freak. So his hair grew rapidly. He knew it was because of the medication, as a side-effect. His fingernails and toenails were the same and he had to have those cut every few days.

"Oh, I didn't know..." She felt awkward, and from Cloud's reaction, as subtle as it was, she could tell he hadn't found it comforting. "What else do I need to know Cloud?" She did as he asked and cut the hair so that it was short, but she left it a little long up front, liking the way a few blond strands fell around his eyes. She set the scissors on the sink and then picked up what she'd need to make sure his wounds were bandaged properly.

Cloud looked back at Tifa when the scissors were put down, his eyes drifting over the metal as his mind slipped into formulating plans and methods to take down an enemy with them, coming up with many reasons that he would not speak aloud. The ways were endless in his mind and he slowly drew his gaze away from staring at the scissors. "Nails grow at increased rate, heightened sensitivity to sound, sight, taste, and touch, and require ten minutes after medication injection alone." He stared at the tub water again.

She nodded and knelt at his side. She applied some salve to make sure it would not become infected, then placed some guaze and wrapped some bandages around his waist, vagualy aware that Cloud was only wearing a towel and she was right at lap-level.

Cloud lifted his arm while Tifa worked, looking down at her and kept his eyes on her, studying her. She really hadn't changed, always willing to take care of him when he probably should have been able to do it himself. He would have to thank her in some way when he could, but for now, he needed to get used to the fact that he was free if he wanted to be. He could walk away and do things around normal society again. "How is everyone?"

She moved down to his feet and lifted up the more injured of the two and studied it for any remaining glass. "Everyone's okay. As far as I know...Cid is in Rocket Town still, I was staying with him for a while. And Yuffie is the same. Barret and Marlene are doing really good." She gave a soft smile at how much Marlene had grown. "But, I haven't talked to anyone besides them."

Cloud watched Tifa silently, taking in the information in his own silence, wondering if he feet looked any better after a bath and some soap. He couldn't really feel any pain in them at the moment. He shifted himself on the toilet so that she was directly in front of him, making it much easier for the both of them. He didn't really think that anyone else aside from Tifa would care to associate with him in the state that he was in. "Marlene still hate me?"

She looked up and laughed, "No, she doesn't hate you. In her letters she always asks me where you are." She looked down again and wrapped his foot, amazed to see it appeared to already be healed. She shifted and picked up the other one and started to do the same.

Cloud cocked his head to the side and nodded his head at the information, not needing to ask what Tifa says in responce to where he is. He doubted that anyone knew about him, that he was cracked and not fully there in the head. Barrett had wondered for a long time, he supposed, but that was before he was insane. He set his bandaged foot on the floor again and held up the other so Tifa didn't have to hold it. "How are you?" he asked softly, feeling actually conversational for the first time in years.

She blinked a few times, but that was the only indication that she was uncomfortable with the subject of herself. She wound the bandage around his foot and kept her gaze focused on it. "I'm...okay."

Cloud kept his gaze steady on Tifa, studying her and immediately zeroing in on the fact that she was uncomfortable with the turn of questioning. He remained silent for a few moments as she bandaged his foot, thankful for it since he liked his wounds covered up. He thought about whether or not to push for more of an answer than was he recieved. "What does okay mean?"

She knelt back and then stood, putting the bandages and other ointments back into the cupboard. She sighed and shook her head, "It means...I'm okay. I'm better now, than I was."

Cloud set his foot back on the ground and climbed to his feet, pulling the towel off from around his waist, bipassing the fact he was standing quite close to Tifa and stepped to the towel rank, folding the towel up. He tested the bandage on his side and feet turning to regard Tifa again, nearly forgetting that he was naked. "How were you then?" he asked simply before walking in search of pants.

Tifa's eyes went wide again at the site of Cloud naked and she blushed and turned away. "I was...was..." She tried to answer without sounding like she was completely embarrassed. "I wasn't okay." She tentatively glanced over her shoulder and pointed at the couch in the other room. "There are some clothes for you there, on the couch."

Cloud nodded his head and walked to the pointed out couch, wondering if he had just seen Tifa actually blushing in reference to him. He grabbed the pair of sweatpants and looked at them before slipping them on and feeling actually quite comfortable for once, though the pants did slip down his waist if he didn't hold them up. So, he had lost that much weight, had he? It must have been a good ten, possibly twenty pounds at the way the pants fell down. "How come?" he called back to her, wondering if she was still blushing.

She glanced out the door and was relieved to see Cloud with the pants on. She wandered out and over to the food to make them some sandwiches. "Because you weren't around." She laid out some bread and spread some butter on them.

Cloud followed Tifa around, standing on the other side of the table from where she was making sandwiches, cocking his head to the side. "Why would that bother you? I was in the Institute," he said neutrally, though he found himself confused over why Tifa would be upset when she had insisted he seen professionals like they had in the Institute. He stared at the way she made sandwiches, studying it as it had been a long time for him.

"Because, I thought it would be a good thing for you, and for me. But then they didn't let me talk to you anymore and I just had this bad feeling." She kept her gaze on the sandwiches, not wanting him to see her emotions projected in her eyes. "Do you want turkey, ham, or peanut butter and jelly?"

Cloud cocked his head to the side and stared at the sandwiches some more, almost enraptured with the entire process since it had been a very long time seeing it. He thought that it felt longer than a year since he had not been allowed to do anything for himself in the Institute, all of his independence taken away to make his life less stressful. "I was sick," was all he said and looked at Tifa as he had to think about what kind of sandwich he wanted, playing over the different variety he could have. He eventually settled for, "affirmative."

"Affirmative to ham? Turkey? Or, not all of them?" She laughed set down the knife and turned to place her hands on his shoulders and smiled at him. "I know it's been a long time. A long, long time...but you're free...you can do what you want now. You can say "yes" or "no". I'm not one of those doctors. I'm your friend. I wish...I wish I'd never put you in that place. I could have taken care of you. I know it now. So..." She let her hands drop and turned back to the sandwich fixings, "Which one do you want?"

Cloud stared at Tifa a moment when she laughed at him, finding the reaction curious as he wasn't aware that he had made a joke at all. He looked at the hands on his shoulders and cocked his head at the smile, his expression never changing even though the glow of his eyes dimmed slightly. He looked at the various choices for a sandwich then up at Tifa. "Yes," he said after a pause, thinking about what he just requested for a moment. He couldn't remember what any of those four things actually tasted like. He would have to taste them all again.

"I'll make you three different sandwiches then. You could use to gain the weight." She smiled and went about finishing up a plate of food for him, adding an apple and some chips at the side. For herself she prepared a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She took the plates over to the small table in a bright yellow linoleum and sat down.

Cloud followed obediently after staring at Tifa making sandwiches and wondered if he could actually eat three sandwiches. He had been limited in the amount that he was fed, mostly because over eating was a sign of depression, or something. His meals had been pushed up when his ribs had began to show since his body obviously needed an increase in diet despite his size. He sat down and stared at the rather large meal in front of him, eyeing it suspiciously. "I gained weight there," he said as he picked up a sandwich, looking at it intently for a moment. "Can't see my ribs anymore."

She watched him gaze at the food. "It's okay if you can't eat it all, do what you can. I have more if you want something later." She cocked her head to the side and then giggled. "I'm glad you're back, Cloud."

Cloud looked over at Tifa from staring at his food, cocking his head to the side at the fact that she was now giggling. He didn't think that he had done anything funny at all. Maybe she was crazy like him? He shook his head and went back to staring at his food before putting his sandwich down untouched and picked up the apple, examining it intently. It had been nearly six months since he had been given an apple whole. He slowly brought it to his mouth and bit into it, nearly falling out of his chair when some juice spattered on his nose and cheeks. He put the apple down and went on to investigating other parts of the meal given, staring at the apple curiously.

Tifa watched Cloud study the food as if he'd never seen if before, then she giggled again as he nearly fell out of his chair. "Do you need me to cut up the apple?"

Cloud looked over at Tifa then down at the apple again, licking his lips from the sweet juice that still covered them. Was he that behind the times now? Had insanity really took away so much of himself that he couldn't even eat something normally? His eyes darkened and he slowly picked the apple back up. Warrior instincts kept his sharp to everything that could be an enemy, even a simple apple. "...negative," he said and took another slower bite out of the apple. He ate it slowly, making sure to study the action, to study how Tifa ate to make sure he was still normal.

Tifa watched him eat for a bit, then satisfied, she picked up her own apple and ate in silence for a while. "Hey, Cloud?"

Cloud finished his apple and searched through his sandwiches until he picked up the ham one, investigating it by pulling the bread apart and looking at the contents before putting it back together, taking the movements in stride that this is what he did to actually make a sandwich. He felt like such a child and missed the simple knowledge that mind-numbing drugs and boredom had eaten up so that he couldn't remember without having to see it once. He looked over at Tifa. "Yes?" he replied before taking his first bite of the sandwich.

"Does it taste okay? I hope so." She watched him a bit, then remembered why she'd interrupted him. "I wanted to talk some more about...Sephiroth. Is that okay?"

Cloud ate over half of the sandwich, somehow remembering that food outside the Institute actually carried taste with it and he liked that. He looked up at the mention of Sephiroth, in mid-bite, and watched Tifa out of the corner of his eye, needing to make yet another decision. Eat sandwich? Remain stationary? Ask Tifa? He quickly ate the rest of his sandwich and looked over at her, cocking his head to the side as he swallowed the last of it. "Affirmative."

"You can just say "yes', Cloud...it's okay." She was taking his new behavior in stride, obviously life had been very different in the Institute and she would simply have to help Cloud relearn what he'd forgotten. "So, you said you saw him?"

Cloud looked down at his plate and picked up another sandwich, trying to decide if he was still hungry. He came to the decision that he was and would therefore eat more, at least until he wasn't hungry anymore or didn't have any food left on his plate. He looked at Tifa and lifted the sandwich. "Affirm... uh...yes," he blinked slightly as that was the first time he had ever stumbled over his own words before, finding it curious.

"How? You said in your mind, you'd seen him? Where was he?" Tifa finished her sandwich and set the plate aside, then she remembered. "Are you thirsty? I have water."

“When I sleep, I see through him," Cloud said simply, biting into the sandwich in his hands, aware that he could eat and hold up a converstaion at the same time if he tried. Normally, no one really talked to him when he ate. He chewed and remembered to swallow before talking again, as was polite. "He was reading books when I last saw." He cocked his head to the side at the mention of water and shook his head. "I drank bath water when I got soap in my mouth."

She nodded and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and set it before him. "Here, that'll taste better. So, he was reading books? Where?" Tifa had a growing sense of dread of where he might be.

Cloud ate more of the sandwich in his hands, his eyes following Tifa to the fridge and back again, regarding the water bottle placed in front of him for a moment. He continued to eat instead of daring to open it or drink it. He was more hungry than thirsty anyway. He put the sandwich down on the plate and shrugged his shoulders. "The place where it all began," was all he said, pushing around his apple core, finding it interesting.

"Oh, shit." Tifa dropped her apple and put a hand to her mouth. "Yuffie!"

Cloud stared at Tifa for awhile, not exactly sure what he had missed in this particular conversation that made Tifa look like that. He cocked his head to the side. "Where?" He looked around over his shoulder, thinking the ninja was in the room somewhere.

"Nibelheim. I told Yuffie to find everyone, Vincent, Red...Vincent's in Nibelheim. You can't try to see if they're okay, can you?"

Cloud looked back at Tifa and picked up his sandwich again, gaze flicking over to regard the woman next to him. "They would already be dead if he wanted it that way," was all he said and bit into the sandwich again, continuing with his eating and considered this new piece of information. Reunion. He shook his head and brushed against the faint link he had with Sephiroth before pulling back again, aware the ex-General would not establish a link with him again.

"I guess, I guess you're right." She did not look reassured. "We should head there as soon as we can. Don't you think so?"

Cloud looked at Tifa and slowly nodded his head, his gaze shifting over to his sword and he couldn't help the smirk that appeared from behind his sandwich. Reunion. He bit into his sandwich again and nodded his head more to confirm the thought that they should move back to Nibelheim. "I will kill him," he said behind his sandwich.

Tifa looked up and studied Cloud, "How do you think he's alive again?"

Cloud shrugged and finished off his second sandwich, looking down at his slowly emptying plate. He looked between the water and the sandwich for a moment before going over to the last sandwich. "Regeneration? Jenova? Clone?" He didn't know, but he could suspect.

"Not Jenova...we killed her." Tifa shook her head and collected her apple from where it'd rolled across the table. "We killed her...it can't be that."

Cloud ate more of his sandwich in silence, only able to get half-way through before his stomach refused anymore food and he didn't feel so well. He thought that switching over to really rich foods suddenly was not such a good idea, but he didn't say anything to the headache he was getting. He placed the sandwich down and leaned back in his chair. "Killing Jenova doesn't kill her cells."

She stared at Cloud a long moment, looking at the bright glow of his eyes. She could barely see their original blue anymore, the blue she remembered he had when he was a child. She sighed and nodded, "I guess you're right. Then we need to get everyone together again."

Cloud didn't say anything to an old group reunion, despite him knowing that it would be better if the group came back together. He looked at his food and had the sudden urge to throw-up, a muscle in his cheek twitching with the thought and feeling, yet he didn't move just yet. He could hold it back. "Where meet?"

“Somewhere that isn't Nibelheim. We can meet outside, don't you think? Once you're better, of course." She watched his face and leaned in. "How are you feeling? You don't look so well."

Cloud nodded at her words, not sure where an appropriate place to be since they couldn't very well leave Sephiroth unchecked and unmarked. Perhaps he should find the ex-General and put Sephiroth down again? He looked up at Tifa asking him in he was alright and the same muscle twitched in his cheek. "Ill," was all he said before climbing to his feet and walking calmly to the bathroom, his stomach not happy at the moment.

Tifa watched Cloud go to the bathroom and she knew the food had been too much. Just soup later then. I should have known not to have given him that right away. She stood and went to the door and got a wet washcloth. "I'm sorry, Cloud. I should have known the food would be too much."

Cloud stepped up to the toilet and pulled up the seat, staring down at the clear water, his eyes reflecting back at him. He nearly forgot to hold up his pants on the way to the bathroom, but remembered before they had slipped too far on his hips. His stomach rebeled on his suddenly and he dropped hard to his knees, his shoulders heaving with effort. He shuddered as his entire body seemed to convulse with the heaves to remove the food in his stomach, his hands clutching desperately on the rim of the bowl. He disliked throwing-up because it made all of the bones in his back, his shoulder blades particularly, stand out since he had lost a lot of muscle mass.

Tifa knelt down at his side and laid a hand on his back, simply trying to give him some comfort as he was sick. She had a cold washcloth ready for him. Her thoughts were now wholly focused on her friend, the threat of Sephiroth pushed aside, as sympathy filled her heart.

Cloud eventually managed to remove what was in his stomach and coughed, his shoulders shaking slightly. He snorted and spat the horrid taste in his mouth out, shaking his head as he licked his lips, resting against the toilet for the moment as he gathered himself to get back to his feet again. He slowly raised his head, not really feeling too much better. At least the food at tasted good on the way down.

Tifa rubbed his back and pressed the cool washcloth to his forehead. "I'm sorry, Cloud. I should have known." She sighed and suddenly felt her sadness wash over her as she saw what her best friend had been reduced to.

Cloud shook his head and slowly pushed himself back to his feet, enjoying the cool cloth on his forehead before he flushed the toilet and walked shakily over to the sink, hanging his head when his pants slipped off of his hips in his attempt to get to the sink to wash his mouth out. This was not the best day for freedom, that was for sure. He shook his head and ignored the fallen pants pooling at his feet and washed his mouth out, removing the horrible taste. It was the first time that his logical mind admitted that he was a dependent and he was in horrible condition.

Tifa calmly turned and reached down to pull Cloud's sweats back over his hips. "I guess I'll go out tomorrow and get you a pair that fit, okay?" She watched him over his shoulder and she wanted to hug him again, but the look in his eyes was keeping her back.

Cloud looked in the mirror for a moment and he couldn't remember half of what he looked like before he was classified as clinically insane, but he knew it wasn't the image that stared back at him. He rubbed his face with his hand and leaned over the sink, suddenly not so sure about his so-called freedom. Maybe he really wasn't ready to handle the outside world again. He reached down and grabbed the pants at his hips to keep them up so Tifa didn't have to feel obligated. "Were these my pants before the institute?"

She nodded, "Yes. I guess I didn't think..." Her voice trailed off as she saw how her friend's body had wasted away. "I didn't think you'd lose that much weight. That they let you exercise and stuff. Was it the medication that did it?"

"No," he said quietly, noting just how much weight he must of lost for these pants, which had fit him only a year ago, to fall from him as if thet were giant on him. Maybe he hadn't gained back as much weight as he had thought that he had. "I was provided the right calory diet for my weight and height, but I dropped weight anyway. Wisley said something offhandedly about fourty pounds, but said I gained again." He looked down at the pants. "I must be twenty pounds off still." He pushed off and stood on his own two feet again.

She nodded and simply processed the information. "Well, I'll get you some new things. Anything you want when I go out tomorrow?"

Cloud turned around to regard Tifa and cocked his head to the side. He rubbed his still churning stomach with one hand and held his pants up with the other. "Do you have to go out tomorrow?"

"I will for you. I'll be careful, don't worry." She gave him a small smile, though it didn't reach her eyes. She suddenly felt so empty, and here she had her friend back.

Cloud shook his head and finally stepped around Tifa, slowly padding back to the main room where it was larger and he didn't feel so cramped. He stopped in the doorway and looked back at Tifa. "I do not want you to go out. I want you to stay," he said quietly before walking fully from the bathroom.

She followed him into the other after a moment and stopped in the middle of the room. "Why? I won't be gone long."

Cloud returned to his seat and looked over at Tifa, his neutral expression threatening to shift slightly but failed to do so. He stared at her with his glowing eyes and picked up the water he had been given. "I want you around. You going out means I'm alone, like in the Institute. I just left there." He looked at the table and simply stared blankly at it. "Do not go out. I care little if my pants do not fit or that I cannot eat. Do not go."

She nodded, "Okay, I won't go." She smiled a little at the mention that he wanted her around. "We can find a belt you can put on until you fill out those pants again."

Cloud looked at the pants with slight disgust and didn't like the sound of a belt just yet. The most common thing in the Institute was allow the patient to wander without clothes. It never bothered anyone. He stood and looked at the pants, pulling them higher. "No belt. I just won't wear pants. It is just you and me, so it will not matter, correct?"

Tifa blinked a few times, then looked around the room a bit, then found the poster on the back wall rather interesting. "No, it won't matter." She lied. "But, you'll get cold so..."

Cloud nodded his head at Tifa's answer and let go of the pants around his waist, watching them make a valiant effort to cling to his narrow hips before just sliding off pathetically and pooling at his feet. He stepped from the material and picked them up, folding them neatly again before looking at where Tifa was looking. "Do you plan to always lie to me?" he asked neutrally and looked back at his pants. He could hold them up. He began to put them back on again, knowing the look of when someone was uncomfortable.

"What? Lie to you?" She frowned and crossed her arms, becoming quite defensive. "I don't lie to you."

Cloud noted the attitude quietly and pulled the pants back over his hips, holding it there. "You blush and look away when I'm naked," he said simply and shrugged his shoulders, slowly returning to his seat yet his gaze never left Tifa's face. "You never used to get embarrassed by my appearance."

She stared at him with her mouth open for a moment, then she snapped it shut and continued to frown. "I just...I don't want you to get cold, you can't risk to get sick. I..." She sighed and shook her head. "I'm sorry, Cloud. It's been a long time. I'm just not used to it. You can not wear the pants if you want. Just give me a bit to get used to it again."

Cloud stared at her a moment, playing over his explanation in his mind. He really had no reason to disbelieve her, but it was in the middle of the summer so he doubted that he would get cold unless at night in which he might be under blankets anyway. He couldn't understand her odd behaviour since he really couldn't remember a time when she acted this way towards him, always blushing and looking away at the sight of him. It must have been recent, and Aerith had done it to him before. "I'm SOLDIER. I do not get sick easily and temperature fluctuations do not effect me greatly. You know that."

"I know. I'm sorry for being silly. It's just been a lot to think about. Sephiroth is back, I had to get you out of that place." I like you. Tifa shook her head at herself for finally admitting it. Dammit, Tifa...dammit!

Cloud remained silent and slowly nodded his head. Perhaps he was still a rather sizeable handful to handle for Tifa, and the Institute life had turned him into something that he didn't know anymore. It was better than him breaking down screaming and shrieking about how unfair the world was and that the world was out to get him and Jenova was taking him over. At least he didn't raise his voice anymore and tried to pull his hair out. "I will remained clothed."

"You can do what you want, Cloud. You deserve that." She turned and looked at him. "I'm sorry. I'm just tired."
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