Tifa woke from the first peaceful sleep that she had had in months. For a moment her breath caught in her throat as she felt a strange weight wrapped around her body, but then her hand shifted and she felt the silky strands of Cloud's hair. She looked down and saw him still sleeping peacefully, and she let out a sigh of relief that yesterday's events had not just been a dream.
Cloud jerked awake immediately at movement at his side and the feel of something touching his hair, sitting bolt upright as he immediately searched for a weapon to defend himself with. He noted with surprise that he wasn't in a confined room anymore and looked down to find Tifa beside him instead of a nurse or something. He sighed heavily, his eyes drooping and flopped back down and nestled up to Tifa, pulling the blankets over his naked shoulder.
Tifa's eyes widened as Cloud reacted to the movement, but then suddenly nestled back down with her. She laid her hand on his head again and was amazed to see that, in fact, Cloud's hair had already grown out. "I'll give you a hair cut when we get up."
Cloud closed his eyes and made an affirmative noise at Tifa, throwing one of his arms around her waist as he sighed heavily and nearly drifted off back to sleep. His body was feeling much healthier already and he had only had one meal - that hadn't remained - a bath, and a nap. Still, he was relaxed and not constantly holding up his guard. "It is tangled again?" he asked about his hair.
"No, it's just really long." She combed her fingers through it, getting out a few tangles. "Are you hungry? I'll make some soup, you can keep that down I think."
Cloud opened his eyes and looked over at his hair which now once again already settled at his shoulders and hung around his face, lifitng his head to move some of the locks from his vision. At the mention of food, he perked up a bit, now finding himself rather hungry since he was in a familiar presence. He slowly pulled himself back from Tifa and looked down at his bare chest, poking his meatless side. "I am hungry."
Tifa sat up and reached out to Cloud's waist, feeling how bony he was. "Yes, we need to start fattening you up again." She smiled and reached up to brush her hair back. "Come on...I'll make some coffee too if you'd like."
Cloud looked down at where Tifa poked him and then swung his legs out of the blankets, settling his feet on the floor before he climbed to his feet again. He grabbed his pants before they slipped down to his knees and pulled them back up again. "No coffee. It effects my medication. Just soup is fine."
"Okay." She slid from the bed and followed after Cloud, stepping into the bathroom for a few minutes to make herself presentable, before she went to the small kitchen area and began to boil some water. "Your medication, Cloud...do you need me to do that now?"
Cloud followed after Tifa, though he remained outside when she went in the bathroom, instead wandering around the kitchen until his eyes fixed on a rubber band. His gaze traveled from his pants to the rubber band before he grabbed it and wandered off again, watching Tifa boil water. He grabbed the waistband of his pants and pulled it tight to one side, bunching the material until he wrapped the rubber band around it, holding the pants up on his hips without him having to hold them. "Yes, medication. I required a dosage."
She set out a can of chicken noodle soup and turned to him. "Now? Just talk me through what I need to do."
Cloud looked over to his medication bag - the one Tifa had brought - and pulled out the many metal cases, reading the inscriptions on each one that had the day of the week and 'morning' or 'night' scribbled on it. He picked up the one for today that was for the evening and handed it to Tifa. "30cc in the syringe in the renal vein." He pointed to the place he had shown her earlier on his hip.
Tifa nearly winced, she knew it was a painful place to receive an injection. "Okay." She calmly took the bottle and grabbed a syringe and needle. She'd done some things like so when someone had been injured in AVALANCHE. "Then you need to be alone, right? We should do this in the bedroom then."
Cloud shook his head and turned away from being able to see the needle. No matter who held a needle, he never could stand looking at them and often times had to be snuck up on for his injections. "Negative. This injection requires no time alone. The morning injection does."
Tifa nodded and went through the motions of getting the required dosage, when the needle was ready she walked over to Cloud. "Ready?"
Cloud took one look at the needle and backed away a few steps, turning his head to the side, his hands clenching at his sides. This was going to prove difficult as he would not really sit still for a needle. He never took one willingly, his hand coming up to protect the area that was destinied to receive the needle. He skittered back until his back touched against the kitchen counter, his hand subconsciously going for a weapon, anything he could get his hands on.
Tifa watched Cloud suddenly react to what she was holding, and she put it behind her back. "Can you do this Cloud?" She stayed where she was, waiting until he...calmed down? She'd bit her lip and a concerned expression full of sympathy errupted in her eyes.
Cloud steadied himself as Tifa's voice reached him, looking up to find the syringe out of his sight. He visibly relaxed and took a few steps closer to her again, his eyes subconsciously scanning to the offending weapon that could be used against him. He looked at Tifa then at the floor. "Negative, not willingly. You will have to do it when I cannot see it." He walked over to the couch and flopped down, laying his head back after tugging down his pants enough to expose the area required, covering his eyes with an arm to keep himself unaware as possible.
Tifa nodded and took a deep breath, kneeling down at Cloud's side and wiped the area with a rubbing alcohol-soaked guaze piece. She then glanced up at Cloud's covered eyes, then down to the task at hand. She spied the area that was where a needle had obviously been inserted many times, a small circular mark it's only indication. She quickly pressed the needle in and gave Cloud the injection, trying to go as fast as was comfortable.
Cloud shifted when his skin was rubbed with alcohol, his breathing rate increasing with the anticipation as he shifted his hips against the couch. Somehow, he managed to keep his eyes covered when all he wanted to do was get violent with Tifa, though his mind instantly projected someone else injecting him. He drew in a sharp breath when the needle penetrated his skin, his back arching as he fought with himself to remain fixed to receive his medication. He ground his teeth together in aggetation and clenched his hands.
Tifa placed a firm hand on Cloud's hip to keep it in place until she suddenly drew the empty syringe away and sat back a bit, letting Cloud have his space. She knew deep down that he wouldn't hurt her, but she could only imagine how painful the injection was and how much he must hate those that did it to him.
Cloud snarled softly when a hand touched on his hip and held him, the pain only dully registering as something that he should recognize as receiving his medication. He opened his eyes when the syringe was moved away and reached down to cover the injection area, looking over at Tifa and nodding his head slightly. Someday, he would have to give them to himself as Wisley suggested; it would give him independence again. "Thank you," he said quietly as the medication set to work immediately to calm his nerves and rearrange his thoughts into order.
Tifa nodded, "I'd say 'you're welcome', but I can't imagine how painful that was." She stood and went to toss the needle away before she returned to her soup making. It hurt to know that she'd just given her friend such pain, pain she'd hoped to avoid giving him now that he was free of the Institute.
Cloud rose to his feet and walked after Tifa, pulling his sweatpants back up onto his hips more, noting that he wasn't wearing a shirt at the moment. He vaguely wondered if she would be uncomfortable with his skin exposed, but he didn't feel the desire to hunt down a shirt to wear at this point. "I feel no pain," he reminded her, both a blessing and a curse.
She poured the soup and began to mix it, keeping it bland so that no spices would upset Cloud's stomach. "Physically? Or Mentally?" He voice quiet as she spoke.
Cloud looked at Tifa's back and cocked his head to the side, taking to touching his long hair since he had never really taken the time to do so. "I feel no pain either way. My emotions have been stripped from me and the nerve tissue is deadened to pain reception. At least, my brain does not choose to recognize it." He noted that his hair was still that golden yellow colour.
Tifa stirred the soup and sighed. "Are you happier now...than you were before Cloud?"
Cloud blinked and stared at Tifa's back, not sure if he was happier per say, but he was more relaxed outside of the Institute and could feel his body shifting back to simply resting rather than defending. "I am relaxed. My ability to feel happy is uncertain, but I feel like I could sleep for a week, whereas I refused to sleep for more than four hours."
Tifa shook her head and turned around to face him. "No, I mean...before the Institute. Were you happier?"
Cloud cocked his head to the side and brought of memories of his behaviour before the Institute. "I was sick, and I had put too much strain on you. It was for the best that I went to the Institute. It was not a matter of being happy; it was a matter of getting well again."
Tifa nodded, "Do you think you're getting well again?" She turned to the cabinets and brought down two bowls.
"I can think clearly," was all he said before walking over to sit at the table, feeling hungry more than once a day in the first time in months. "However, to gain back clearity, I have lost emotion."
Tifa filled a bowl and brought it over, handing Cloud a spoon. "Here, you'll have to relearn to feed yourself. Okay? I can't be your mommy." A slight twinkle of humor entered Tifa's eyes.
Cloud looked at the spoon he was handed and looked up at Tifa's words, cocking his head to the side at the humour she was displaying for him. He would have like to respond, but all he could manage was for the blinding glow of his eyes to dull a bit before picking up again, turning his gaze down to the soup. It was obviously hot and he sat staring at it until it cooled down. "I am familiar with the sight of utensil, though I was restricted from using one after gutting a guard with a spoon."
Tifa picked up her own bowl, and paused a moment as he mentioned using the spoon against a guard. "I'm sure he deserved it." A hard look passing over her eyes as she thought of the people who ran the Institute.
Cloud pushed some hair back over his shoulders and stared at his reflection in the broth of his soup. "It occurred under my previous medication where anger control was obelete." He dipped the spoon into his soup and brought some brooth to his lips, drinking it down. He received the dull murmur of pain that indicated he should wait a little longer before eating.
Tifa sat down and blew on her soup to cool it a bit before trying it. "When would you like to leave? It depends on what you're up to."
Cloud looked up at Tifa and cocked his head to the side as he stirred his soup a bit, remembering that was what the nurse had done for him when it had been too hot to eat. "Leave? For where?"
"Instead of staying here...I found a cabin outside of Junon near the mountains where we can lay low for a longer time. You can train and get strong again before we go to Nibelheim. If Sephiroth is still there..." She got up to brew some coffee for herself.
Cloud thought about that and knew that they couldn't stay here for too long. There would be doctors and guards looking for him and the security would only grow more tight the longer they remained behind in this place. It was a nice hideout, but someone would find him eventually in it. "I should be strong enough to move tomorrow for a long distance. My hair will be longer as well so my appearance will be more easily hidden from the public."
Tifa nodded and sat down again, the coffee making burbling the background. "Good. It'll be safer if they have guards looking for us."
Cloud stared at his soup and once again tried to eat some, finding it much easier after some time of cooling. "They will, and the public may be informed of my escape. Should that occur, AVALANCHE and the world will know," he said softly, not about to limit out the possibilities. Wisley wanted him out, but that man could only do so much.
"Most likely they'll be informed. I hope not though...that would be awful. We've worked so hard at keeping this all a secret." She sighed and idly played with her food. "I'll try to get in touch with Yuffie to see if she's found anyone yet...to see if she's okay."
Cloud nodded his head and ate down some of his soup, licking his lips occationally to remove the nice tasting liquid before his gaze flicked back up at Tifa again. "Yuffie would have called if there had been a problem," he said before sipping some more soup, finding that it was easy on his stomach which murmured contently at the feel of food in it again. "Sephiroth avoids contact with me," he said suddenly.
Tifa nodded, though the small knot of worry was still twisted in her stomach. Her attentioned snapped up at the mention of Sephiroth. "Avoids contacting you?"
Cloud nodded his head and blinked when a droplet of broth slipped down his chin, too far to lap up with his tongue and he stared at it dangling for a moment before snatching it from the air as it fell, vaguely disappointed with the loss. He looked over at Tifa again. "Affirmative. I can feel the bond between us, but he refuses to answer my prodding. He remains closed to me unless I am asleep."
Tifa reached across and wiped Cloud's chin clean, giving him a soft smile as she did so. "Have you asked him things? What do you try to do when you contact him?" She sat back and returned to eating her food.
Cloud stared at Tifa when she cleaned his chin for him, looking down at his nearly empty soup bowl before he went back to eating until there was nothing left, placing his spoon down softly. "Negative, I merely explore the bond between us, searching it out and trying to figure out how it works. I have been practicing to make mental defenses, but they have since to hold when I sleep." He shook his head to looked at the soup pot with interest.
"Do you want more soup? And....is he just in Nibelheim? What is he doing?"
Cloud nodded his head to more soup and then looked at his empty bowl. He knew he should get up and get it himself, but he couldn't bring himself to grab the bowl and wander over there just yet. "Affirmative, and he reads books. I have only seen him reading books. He appears to shut me out if he is doing anything else."
"Reading books? What books?" Tifa stood and took his bowl, returning to the stove to ladle more in. "That seems strange."
Cloud cocked his head to the side, not really remembering what type of books that were being read. "The only books in the basement of the Mansion are history of experimention and of the planet." It felt so strange to actually socialize with another person and he found his voice occationally breaking from use again. Very odd.
Tifa set his bowl out again and sighed, "Seems rather strange. I wonder why he'd be reading books?"
Cloud shrugged his shoulders and immediately went into sipping the broth of the soup again, enjoying the taste. "Clearity of the mind does wonders for him. He reads to remember what drove him insane the first time, probably."
Tifa snorted, "Hmph, well...as long as he doesn't go insane again."
Cloud nodded his head and ate his soup in silence for awhile. He noted that Sephiroth had found clearity again and he had found insanity, their roles opposite now. He supposed that he could place his insanity on Sephiroth's actions that had been compounded from the five years of experimentation and dead of his friends. Maybe he was just another puppet? They were all puppets in the end, set on the invisible strings of the hidden puppetmaster.
Tifa finished her soap, then rest her chin in her hands, watching Cloud a bit before looking down at his soup bowl. The remembrance of what she'd admitted to Cloud earlier suddenly came back to her and she felt a rush of heat go to her cheeks.
Cloud ate the rest of his soup in silence before looking up at Tifa to thank her for the meal, one that sat much better with his ailing stomach. He stopped when he found her blushing and immediately looked down at his pants, noting that they were still on his hips so it couldn't have been that. He looked around the room, looking for a reason for the reddened cheeks. "Did you burn your cheeks?"
"Mm?" Tifa's eyes widened with surprise at his question, then slid her hands to her cheeks and could feel the hot blush on them. "No. Just...the soup is hot, that's all."
Cloud looked down at Tifa's empty bowl then up to her cheeks again. It was impossible for her cheeks to redden so far after the soup had cooled and gone away. He set his spoon down and cocked his head to the side. "It must have been a delayed reaction type of hot then since you have no soup in your bowl."
Tifa laughed and nodded, "That's it!"
Cloud didn't find himself fully comprehended and simply stared at Tifa, his mind drawing over the facts that could have made her blush like that. Him naked was one, and confessing love for him could be another. "I do not understand..." he finally admitted.
"Don't understand...?" Tifa blinked at him a few times, then cocked her head to the side. "Don't understand what?"
Cloud pointed at her soup bowl. "There is nothing in your bowl; therefore, there is no heat produced. Since there is no heat, you cannot have your cheeks redden in such a manner. You look like you were blushing." He really cursed not being able to feel things out.
Tifa sighed, "It was nothing Cloud. Don't think too hard or your brain might explode." She laughed and reached across to pick up his soup bowl and bring it to the sink, pouring herself a cup of coffee before sitting down again.
Cloud watched Tifa move about the room before he went to casually staring at the table. He finally stood up and pulled his pants down a bit to stare at the black bruise on his hip, prodding it lightly before the rubber band holding his pants tight 'accidently' slipped off and his pant fell down around his ankles again. He stared down at them for a moment then up at Tifa. "Don't stare or you may choke on your coffee," he said neutrally, leaving his pants down purposeful for a moment before bending to get them again.
"I'm not staring!" She shut her eyes and put her face down, opening them only when she thought it was safe to do so, she looked through the curtain of her dark hair. "Is it safe?"
Cloud bunched his pant waistband back up and wrapped the rubber band back around them to keep them tight and secure again, having to shift them off of the bruise on his hip. "Like what you see?" If his voice wasn't dead-pan and neutral along with his expressions, he might have been poking fun at Tifa's embarrassment. As it was, it was impossible to tell.
Tifa looked up in shock at Cloud, "Wh-what?" She blinked a few times and tried to figure out if Cloud was trying to poke fun at her, or if he meant something else...she just couldn't tell from the expressionless nature of his voice.
Cloud stared at Tifa from his place across the table, noting that she didn't actually answer the question that he had asked. It was perfectly simple, just a yes or no answer. He didn't much find understanding in her shocked expression. "Do you like what you see when I do not have pants on? Is that why you blush?" Again, completely neutrality kept him hidden in mystery.
Tifa suddenly felt her heart start fluttering and she tried to decide between running, or...or babbling in front of Cloud. She stood, a little too quickly to seem casual, and went over to turn the coffee maker off. "What a...what a silly question, Cloud. I've seen it all before and never cared."
Cloud watched Tifa's reaction and would have had to be completely brain dead to know the truth of the reaction, sitting quietly at the table as Tifa rushed to the coffee maker. He didn't say anything more, but it was obvious that he had formed his own conclusion about the reaction displayed in front of him. "Very well," he said neutrally and stood up from his chair, walking around the room to investigate things.
Goes about washing the bowls, rather indignant that Cloud was teasing her, "I...I told you how I feel last night. You shouldn't tease me. It's mean."
Cloud cocked his head to the side, not aware that he was actually teasing Tifa. He was merely asking questions that could be interpreted as mockery and jabs, but he didn't mean it like that. He watched her back before finally walking over to her, stopping directly behind her just close enough that she could feel his body heat and far enough where they weren't touching. "I do not tease."
"Then why...you shouldn't ask me questions like that then." She turned on the faucet and started to wash the soup bowls and spoons, very aware of how close he was to her.
"Do they make you uncomfortable?" Cloud asked softly, keeping his close proximaty to her back. He somewhat disliked his evening medication more than his morning one for things like this, that his body did one thing and his mind just followed along.
"Yes." Her voice is small as she answers. "You don't make my uncomfortable...I'm just uncomfortable with myself. I don't know what you want from me if you ask me those things."
Cloud cocked his head to the side and set his hands on either side of Tifa's body to hold himself up against the sink ledge, his eyes closing as if he were ready to go back to sleep again. "What do you want from me?" he asked softly.
Tifa nervously licked her lips, then tried to look anywhere that was not into Cloud's eyes, finally settling on his collarbones. "I...I don't know." She lied, her voice quiet.
Cloud had her trapped between his arms and by his body, as wasted away as it was, he was still strong enough to put up a fight if he wanted to. He opened his eyes again and stared at her, leaning considerably closer so that he could hopefully spook an honest answer from her, enjoying her body warmth. "What do you really want from me?"
"Maybe I should ask you, Cloud Strife. What do you really want from me?" he brown eyes lifted, an "I dare you" expression in her gaze.
Cloud's gaze shifted to regard Tifa and he pulled back again, noting that he got her on the defensive rather than getting an actual answer from her. He removed himself from leaning over her and took a step back, pushing his hair back over his shoulders before noting that it was slightly tangled. "My hair is tangled. Am I allowed to use a brush on it?"
Tifa was disappointed as he pulled away from her, but she wasn't about to let him know that. "I'll get you a brush." She disappeared into the bedroom, picking her brush off the dresser and staring at herself in the mirror. She took a few deep, steadying breaths and tried to figure out what Cloud was trying to get out of her...she'd already told him she loved him, what more did he want to know?
Cloud stood in the kitchen and stared at the ceiling for several moments, not really thinking about anything at all. The second dose of his medication always made him do weird things, but it was the only thing that kept the first dosage from making him fly into a complete unpredictable piece of dangerous material that needed to be shot more often than not. He dropped his gaze from the ceiling and then looked down at himself noting that he was still thin and oddly proportioned. He stared at the floor and picked at the pants around his waist.
Tifa finally returned to the other room. "Sit down and I'll brush your hair out, then you can try it by yourself later." Her voice had taken on a new tone of authority, rather business-like, as she tried to mask her emotions.
Cloud didn't need to think as his body was already on the move at the order, moving to sit in his chair again. He wondered if Tifa was angry with him over his questions and decided that he wouldn't ask them anymore. He could blame in on the medication all he wanted, but it still came from him and he was held accountable.
Tifa picked up a some of his hair and started to work the brush through it, then she stopped. "Do you just want it cut again?"
Cloud wordlessly shook his head and simply left his answer at that since that seemed to be approapriate with the tone that Tifa was suddenly taking with him. It was that same kind of hard silent repremending that he often got from the nurses that didn't mind taking care of him when he got into trouble. They always used the authoratative tone to show their displeasure with him, so he had just not said anything to make sure they calmed down. If they didn't he would often get sedated.
"Okay." She picked up some strands and began to gently brush the blond tangles from his hair. She felt a little better now that he wasn't asking questions, but suddenly she found new ones had errupted in her head...after a few minutes of silence she quietly asked one. "What did you want me to answer before Cloud? What did you want to hear from me?"
Cloud merely shrugged his shoulders as she worked on his hair, his gaze moving around the room to study things that he had not seen in so long. Lamps, books, a fireplace, couches that weren't bolted to the floor.... it was all so odd to think that he was free again. It had only been a couple of hours, but if he could be afraid of it, he might have been. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to feel fear. To the second question, he again shrugged his shoulders and left it at that.
Tifa dropped the hair brush and wrapped her arms around Cloud's shoulders and sighed.
Cloud cocked his head to the side questionably to Tifa's sudden reaction and affection, not opening his mouth to openly question it. It was not his business since he had been bad and had to be given the stern talk to keep him under control again. He knew that was the way it worked. It had for a long time, he thought.
"Cloud..." Her voice was low as she tried to express her feelings in words. "Do you really want to know what I want?"
Cloud stared at the floor and almost wanted to shake his head in responce, if only to spare Tifa the need to actually have to tell him. Instead, he remained completely silent and unmoving. Having to deal with complex social interactions was beginning to confuse him a bit since he wasn't sure what way was right to act.
"Cloud?" She held him tighter and buried her face in his hair.
Cloud turned his head slightly at her reaction, not sure what he was supposed to do. He had been taught quickly that when repremended, silence was the best way to keep anymore tension from coming up between two people. The only nice nurse that had given him pretty good care had taught him that, so he had done it and it had worked. He blinked at Tifa's reaction, finding it different.
Tifa sighed and pulled away, coming around in front of Cloud and kneeling at his feet so she could look up into his eyes. "You can talk to me Cloud. You don't need to hide what you're feeling anymore...you're not at the Institute."
"I do not feel," was his first responce to Tifa's words, acknowledging that she had obviously been looking for something different from him after repremending him. He would obviously need to adapt more outside of the life he had known for a year, though it did seem considerably longer in his own mind.
"I know you don't...at least not now Cloud, but you will someday." She leaned up and gave him a tender kiss on his forehead, drawing back and lightly resting her hands on his knees. "You will someday."
Cloud nodded his head silently as she went back to work on his hair which still somehow maintain the odd spikes that were his main characteristic no matter the length it grew. He idly wondered if she would draw back to the questions that he had asked again, not wishing to upset her. They had just been questions.
"Ne, Cloud?" Tifa began to mull over their next move. "When will you be okay to leave? I say the sooner we're to the cabin outside of Junon the safer. There's also better supplies."
Cloud cocked his head to the side and ran his fingers through his still growing hair, stopping each time he found a tangle to dug it out. "Tomorrow probably," he said and stared at the floor for awhile. Yes, he could make a journey to a safer place by tomorrow. He would just spend the rest of the day eating and sleeping...since he found himself getting hungry again.
Tifa nodded. "We'll have to find some good disguises before we go. We should check the radio later and see if we can pick up any signals that they've alerted the authorities to our breakout. We're both too obvious to just walk out of town."
Cloud looked down at his own appearance then his eyes rose to the wild spikes of blonde hair that hung into his eyes. He stood out in a crowd at anytime, so his best bet would be to wear a cloak or a hat, but even then, he had a very different appearance and build. "Affirmative. We should slip away early in the morning or late evening. What kind of disguise should be formulated for our escape?"
Tifa stared at her friend, mulling through disguises, when suddenly an old memory came to her and she burst out into laughing.
Cloud turned in the chair he was sitting in to look up at Tifa, who apparently had found something humourous. He touched his hair then looked down at himself in an attempt to find out if he was the reason for the humour. "You laugh at?"
Tifa got her giggles under control and bit her lip, her eyes bright with laughter. "We are going to dress you up as the prettiest girl anyone has ever seen. If not a little too skinny."
Cloud stared at Tifa for a long time, his expression not changing despite the fact he probably would have been red-faced and bitterly refusing this again. He cocked his head to the side questionably. "Dress me up as a woman? Again?"
Tifa nodded, "Yes. Again. No one would ever expect Cloud Strife to dress up as a woman. I know I have a dress that will fit. It'll be like when you saved me from Don Corneo!"
Cloud continued to stare at Tifa for a moment, and though he saw the benefit of the entire outfit, he thought Tifa was just getting him dressed up again to laugh at him. Perhaps she just wanted to see if he would get hit on again? "Very well," he said after a moment and looked over for the brush that Tifa had been using.
"I'll do your make-up this time. We'll just...oh." She turned and looked at the massive Ultima Weapon resting against the wall. "But that...?"
Cloud looked at his sword before finding the brush and examining it intently. Who would have thought something so innocent could kill? He rolled it in his hands before tenatively running it through some of his hair. "Leave it here. I will call it and it will come to me."
Tifa blinked a few times. "You will call it to you?" She knew the sword was special, but had never seen this happen.
Cloud nodded his head absently and continued to attempt manuvering the brush through his hair, tugging at the knots in his hair before continuing. "Affirmative. Passing on some energy to the blade attunes it to me, and it will come to my hand if I call for it," he said simply. He tugged at the brush, noting that it now refused to budge. Obviously getting the tangles out before moving on was an important lesson.
Tifa listened to this explanation and walked over as she took the brush from Cloud. "I'll do it. But I expect you to brush your own hair in another week. They really didn't let you do anything on your own?" He voice suddenly dropped a notch as she asked what she considered a delicate question.
Cloud dropped his hand when Tifa came to his hair's rescue, noting that the brush didn't move from the mass tangles he had gotten it stuck into. "Negative. Patients are refused daily care of themselves to reduce the amount of stress they experience that could aggrevate symptoms. I have not done anything since I went in there."
"To not aggravate symptoms? By making you dependent?" A scowl appeared on Tifa's lips as she took the brush, just a bit rougher than normal, from Cloud's hair.
Cloud had never really thought about it like that. Most patients grew bored with the lack of activity, except those that required complete care for their symptoms. "It was boring. The games they had us play were uneventful and simplistic. It was stressful enough just being there without having to look after myself."
"We should have done more research into better places." She brushed through his hair again, pulling some of it up into a pigtail, then dropping that style and trying another. "What sort of games?"
"It was the best Institute," Cloud commented neutrally before going back to staring at his pants, picking at them idally. "Games that were supposed to enhance the mind while remaining simple enough for everyone to play."
"Like, hopscotch? Checkers? Did they let you watch the chocobo races on TV? I thought of you when I saw them." She began to braid Cloud's hair as she remembered it last time.
"Negative, checkers pieces can be choked on. Hopscotch meant going outside. Some of us were not allowed outside," Cloud said and looked around as much as he could with disturbing Tifa's prettying of his hair, eyes straying over to the kitchen. Though he had only eaten about half an hour ago, he was hungry again. Normally, he never got another portion, but he may be able to convince Tifa into giving him something more.
"The what did they have you do? Tic-tac-toe?" She worked on braiding Cloud's hair and then putting it around the back of Cloud's head to make a sort of crown of hair. She smiled slightly as she thought about picking up some flowers on the way to the cabin that she could put into his coiffure.
"Pencils can be used as a weapon," Cloud pointed out, his gaze straying around the cabin as Tifa fiddled with his hair more. "I was restricted to full-guard when I was to interact with others with an item that could be preceived as a weapon."
"What did they let you use? Why did they not let you use..." Tifa's thought died as she remembered the doctor's words. He is a threat to everyone and himself. "Cloud...what have you done?" Tifa's head dropped, her dark hair fell and created a curtain to hide her expression.
Cloud cocked his head to the side at the sudden change in questioning, his eyes dropping down to the ground as if he felt he might receive another scolding. He instead climbed to his feet slowly and turned to look at Tifa. "I do not understand the question. What have I done?"
Tifa shook her head "no". "You haven't done anything wrong...but why didn't they let you have anything Cloud? Did anything happen that I should know?"
Cloud shrugged his shoulders and walked into the kitchen, looking around for something he could eat. Sleeping and eating were already making him feel better. "I was dangerous," he said simply. "They were forced to invent medications to work on my advanced body, so I was a prototype. The medications had adverse side-effects sometimes, so a warning was always issued that I was dangerous to others and myself."
Tifa watched him wander to the kitchen. "Are you hungry?" She laid the brush down and sat down in the chair Cloud had just vacated. "So...the medications we have, they're one of a kind?"
Cloud nodded his head about being hungry, rooting around in the cupboards for something he felt like eating. Often, he became side-tracked by the mere sight of food and had to examine it to figure out if he wanted to eat it. Most of the time, he put it back and went about looking for other interesting items in the kitchen. "Medication alpha-6, the one that appears to work out of all the others."
Tifa watched him look for food. "I can cook whatever you want. Just tell me, okay?" She noted the name of the medication. "Does that mean we'll have to return to the Institute to get more?"
Cloud shrugged his shoulders at the question about his medication. He was never allowed to even handle it, so he had no idea what it contained except that it had effects that kept him feeling more clear. He ducked down and found an unexplored cupboard and pulled out what appeared to be rodent poison, investigating the book like he had all the other food items.
Tifa watches him with slight interest until he finds the rat poison. "That...is not food, Cloud. Even you should know that."
Cloud turns the box over in his hands and notes all the hazard labels before replacing it back in the cupboard. He moves to the cupboard he found most interesting and pulled out the bag of pure white sugar, noting how it looked quite a bit like rat poison. He sat down on the kitchen floor and licked his finger before dipping it into the sugar, bringing it to his mouth.
Tifa shook her head like a mother does to a child doing something they should be doing. "Cloud, you can't eat sugar." She took the bag away and went to the fridge freezer and pulled out an ice cream sandwich, which she handed to him. "This is suger, but it's better than just eating granule sugar. Silly." She put a hand on his head and peered into his eyes.
Cloud nearly put up a bit of a protest at having his recently acquired meal from him, blinking when he was handed ice cream. He looked between the gradule sugar and the bar in his hand before climbing back to his feet, investigating the froze treat before starting to eat it. He looked over at Tifa and continued to munch on the ice cream in his hand, quickly finishing it off.
Tifa opened the fridge a moment later and pulled out an apple. "You should be eating real food, Cloud. When we get to the cabin I'll make you a steak and some vegetables. Maybe your stomach can handle it and you'll start gaining some weight back." She sat down next to him on the floor and smiled at him as she thought about their earlier kiss.
Cloud watched Tifa get an apple and sit down beside him, cocking his head to the side. "You gave me the ice cream," he pointed out when she seemed intent on nagging him. He would have eaten whatever she had given him. He looked down at his stomach and noted that he could count a few of his ribs.
"I know. But you wanted something sweet, and that's all I have. I'm sorry, Cloud. I guess I sort of feel like your mother." She placed the apple in front of him.
Cloud looked at Tifa for a moment, wondering how the woman could feel like his mother. "Mother has been dead for eight years," he stated with a neutral voice. He reached out and took the apple, rolling it in his fingers before taking a bite of it.
“I know, Cloud. I meant...taking care of you like this. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring up your mom." She hung her head a little, her hair again falling to try and hide her eyes.
Cloud watched Tifa out of the corner of his eye and continued to eat the apple that he had been given, finding eating more and more pleasant the more he relaxed himself. His stomach was making no protest of what he was eating just yet, thankfully. "I understand," he said after swallowing the piece in his mouth. "No harm done."
"Good." She brushed back a few strands and watched him eat his apple. "Can I ask a question, Cloud?"
Cloud looked over at Tifa and nodded his head to asking him a question, concentrating mostly on eating his apple.
"Can you...only link minds with Sephiroth?"
Cloud cocked his head to the side at the question and looked over at Tifa. "We have not fully linked minds. He refuses contact with me," he pointed out and took another bite of apple, chewing it for a moment before, "how else do you think we can link?"
"I just thought it would be nice if you could talk to more than him. Like, to Barret, and Yuffie, and Vincent, and Cid, and see how they're doing. I haven't even seen Barret and Marlene in months." She curled up and laid her chin on her knees.
Cloud cocked his head to the side and nodded it after a moment. "If I talk to them, they could find out about me," he said neutrally, finishing off his apple, core included. "You should go and see them if you want to. I will stay here."
"No, no. I'm not leaving you. I should never have left you in the first place. I already said that! But we need to get out of here. I'm ready for something new..." Tifa sighed and looked up at the dull ceiling of the room. "I did too much sitting and thinking in Rocket Town."
Cloud nodded his head, aware that sitting around and thinking was sometimes counterproductive since that was where most of his mad scheming had occurred in the Institute. "You will gather the others and I will take care of Sephiroth. That is new," he said and climbed to his feet, walking around the kitchen before leaving it and wandering towards the bedroom again.
"You're not taking care of Sephiroth alone." She got to her feet and followed him. "What are you doing?"
Cloud walked into the bedroom and lay down on the bed, yawning slightly before slipping over to the window and peering outside. "We have already discussed this. Unless, you wish to come with me and we can have a talk with him?"
"I told you that Yuffie was going to Nibelheim to talk to Vincent. There's part of our group there. I can call Barret once we get to the cabin. I'll call Cid too."
Cloud stared out the window at the people running around the city, nodding his head slowly. "Call them then," he said neutrally, his expression not changing though the glow in his eyes dimmed slightly as he laid his chin on his arms. It was not his choice anymore.
"Okay. I'll do it now." Tifa gave him one more glance, then exited into the living room to pick up the phone and start by calling Barret.