Living Without Worry
Title: Living Without Worry (Brightest Blue Eyes Arc 3)
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Disclaimer: No implied ownership, no financial gain, only fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Sephiroth/Cloud, multiple OCs, Full Cast
Rating: MA overall
Summary: Pretty fights cabin fever, Reno wanders around naked, Elena spills the plot points, and Pretty drops the toilet paper.
Pretty stretched, forgetting again that she still had an IV running into each arm to supply a continually changing cocktail of medicine, nutrition and sterile Mako to her body. But she felt like stretching, which was one of the better things from the last day or so.
The first time her medicine had been tweaked, she'd spent the better part of the day in Dr. Ysole's arms, too weak to keep her head up to vomit up the water she kept trying to drink.
But after that she'd done better, slowly. Still, she felt much too weak and much too useless. If medicine in Midgar was supposed to be some sort of step up from Mideel, she hadn't noticed anything.
She was warm though, which was a nice feeling. And even though the IV was pulling at her in a fairly unpleasant way, she kept her arms above her head, reveling in how good it felt to move her muscles without fatigue.
"Good morning," a voice said.
Pretty sat up quickly, fighting a bit of dizziness but trying not to show it. Vincent sat across the room on one of the rarely inhabited visitor's chairs. Already Reeve had checked on her once, but she'd been much too exhausted to ask him any questions.
"Vincent," she said, her voice raspy. A glass of water was within reach though. It always was. A few teenagers seemed to be employed as orderlies to take care of menial things.
"How are you feeling?" Vincent asked, watching her as she sipped nervously at the water. "Better?"
"Than what?" Pretty asked in return, setting her glass down before checking that her IV connections were still secure. Dr. Lothaire had taught her to do that, at least, the first day when she kept forgetting how limited her range really was.
"I don't know," Vincent replied. "And I apologize for leaving you so quickly the other day, but there was something I had to take care of."
"It's okay," Pretty said softly. She'd spent the better part of the first day coming to terms with the fact that Vincent did have a life away from her. Not just realizing it, but actually dealing with it. For all she knew, he had lovers and a family. She never asked, after all. Their friendship was strange enough as is.
"However, everything is under control now," Vincent continued. "So I believe I'll be spending quite a bit of time around the facility, if you don't mind. I did make a promise to Angel."
"I'd like that," Pretty admitted. "It's lonely when Dr. Ysole isn't visiting. And television isn't like having someone to actually talk to."
Vincent chuckled, shifting a bit in the chair. Pretty could see that he had his gun with him, even in the relative safety of the facility.
"Have you seen any of the other people here?" Pretty asked, looking up at one of the nearly empty bags suspended above her. "I hear them sometimes, moving around, but no one actually stops in. Doctor Ysole told me there were others here, others like me. But..."
"There are about a dozen residents in this part of the facility," Vincent said firmly. "But most are quite ill or need constant supervision. This is not a place for social calls."
Pretty nodded. That made a fair bit of sense after all.
And she wanted to keep talking, but she didn't know what to ask.
Cloud was ready to scream. Actually, he had screamed. But he had screamed into a pillow in the basement in a fit of frustration that hadn't been fit for anyone to see. Now he was ready to just march into the yard and do it, if only because it needed to be done.
Reno was naked again. And while nudity was far from bothersome, especially around the resort where it was practically encouraged, Reno just made it obscene.
Luckily it was their down season, when rain would fall most evenings and fog would blanket the town until nearly mid-morning. Luckily Matsuko was in the basement doing laundry and Hikari was slowly simmering soup with her mind set on onions, not Reno's pale ass as he meandered around the yard in the most ridiculous way possible. And no other guests were stuck being witness to the Turks for the next two days.
Cloud wanted to tell him to just pick a spot and lay down; no place was any more or less comfortable. He hadn't looked at the pre-entry forms for the next Gold Saucer amateurs race, the big one held annually, for the last hour they'd sat on his lap. He'd been invited, despite it still being some six months away.
Throwing the forms under his chair, Cloud stalked off the porch, wishing he could make it rain just so Reno would go running back to his cabin. Rude was off cooking himself in the springs and Elena was happily shopping on her own after getting the tour from Matsuko, but Reno...
"Reno!" Cloud called, waving to the man and trying to smile. It wasn't working so well. "You'll tan better if you stay in one spot and lay down."
"Not trying to tan," Reno replied, leering in Cloud's direction and trying to divert Cloud's eyes lower on his anatomy. It wasn't working. Six years of seeing every body-type imaginable without clothing had really made him stop thinking about anyone besides Sephiroth in a sexual sense.
Yet he feared what had probably been the obvious conclusion to begin with. Reno was going to try to seduce him.
"When are you leaving, anyway?" Cloud asked, meeting eyes with a familiar Mako glow. "I need to know how many nights to bill to ShinRa for."
"Right, that report..." Reno glanced skyward. "Well, when that's written and Rude calls for a plane, that's when we leave."
"I'm charging mid-season rates, too," Cloud said, trying to smirk. "No reservations."
"Ain't coming out of my pocket," Reno replied, closing the space between his body and Cloud's. "Especially since I'm not wearing any."
"I'd noticed," Cloud said, standing his ground even as Reno reached for some of the long blond hair he hadn't pulled back into its usual ponytail. "However, I do have guests with proper reservations coming in a few days."
"You're no fun, Strife," Reno said, dropping Cloud's hair before circling, reaching to tug at Cloud's shirt. "Thought I'd be seeing more of you. But this could become a permanent vacation spot."
"Reno," Cloud warned, grabbing Reno's wrist and twisting it. He was still a few times stronger than Reno and had the Turk on the ground in an instant, crying out a split-second before Cloud loosened his grip - before anything could snap.
And without looking back, Cloud marched back up to the porch and grabbed the chocobo racing forms and started filling them out. He hadn't screamed. Sephiroth would be happy. Maybe. He had kinda resorted to physical violence. But Reno wasn't exactly the easiest person to reason with, either.
A few minutes later, Cloud looked up to the sound of footsteps on the porch. Reno was standing there, still rubbing his arm but thankfully now wearing a pair of rumpled dark pants.
"You're still training," Reno said, glancing through the screen door into the house.
"House is off limits," Cloud reminded him. "To all guests, not just you. And yes, I still work out. There are still monsters here."
"Who do you have to train with you?" Reno asked, the question seeming quite innocent as he moved to sit on one of the chairs. "Can't imagine there being many other SOLDIERS down here."
"There's a woman," Cloud said. "She's with Vincent right now, though, in Midgar. I told you I was missing a maid."
"Amnesiac, right?" Reno questioned. "Met about a dozen of those in the last week. She your girlfriend? That why you decided to drop me?"
"She's not my girlfriend," Cloud said. "I'm not interested in women. Or most men, before you decide to make another comment."
"Me?" Reno asked, smirking. "Hey... I'll admit that it's fun getting under your skin but we aren't the bad guys anymore. We're in this together."
"I'm not so sure about that," Cloud said dully. "I didn't know Vincent was working with ShinRa again. He didn't mention it."
"Well, that was only a couple years ago, when we found... Nevermind," Reno said quickly, looking behind him. "Nothing to trouble you with. Just some interesting activity that we can handle. If we need a hero, we'll call."
Cloud raised an eyebrow, now genuinely curious. Whatever was interesting enough to lure Vincent willingly back into the service of ShinRa warranted a little more explanation. Perhaps keeping Reno around for a few more days would be handy.
Or Elena. Elena was friendly. Especially with a bottle of wine in her.
"We should go out for dinner later," Cloud said, a smile forming on his face. "Have you been to Rae's? It's a bar during the day but serves a full dinner in the evenings. Quite fancily, really."
It was Reno's turn to look confused. Cloud liked it. He had a plan.
"I don't like the sound of that," Sephiroth said, digging through a cardboard box of old linens, sorting them into piles. Cloud didn't know what each pile was for, and he was fairly sure he didn't want to know. But the doilies were all going into one pile, at least, and that made him feel a little better for some reason. Hopefully they were going to get sent out to the cottages or given to Hikari. The main house did not need doilies.
"I'm going to try to get Elena drunk and get it out of her," Cloud replied, wondering how much progress Sephiroth was actually making in the attic. It didn't look much different than before, just arranged in stranger piles.
"Something isn't right," Cloud said. "Reno basically told me that much. You know Vincent - maybe not as well as I do, but you know him. He wouldn't go back into service with ShinRa unless he had a very good reason. He has thousands of gil from back when we... Well, it isn't the money..."
He was pacing now, unable to stay in one spot even as Sephiroth sat cross-legged on the floor, sorting.
"I agree," Sephiroth said. "And I would like to know what Vincent is up to as well. But we can't let his current involvement taint our feelings towards what he's doing to help Pretty, either. I can't see those two things as related."
"No," Cloud agreed. "I don't think they are. A Mako-sick girl certainly wouldn't be useful to ShinRa, and besides, Reno said 'years'. If anyone was after Pretty, they would have done it sooner."
"You're right," Sephiroth stated, holding up a few red cloth napkins and inspecting them. "Which means that something is going on in the world that we are too isolated to know about. Perhaps you could call Tifa? I wouldn't trust Cid at this point - he and ShinRa have their hands in each other's back pockets."
"I know," Cloud said. "But let me try to get information from Elena tonight. I'll call Tifa tomorrow."
"Be careful," Sephiroth warned. "You can only resort to violence so many times."
"Against Reno? Never enough," Cloud replied, finally settling down enough to sit and watch Sephiroth pulling thing after thing from the box. "What is all of this, anyway?"
"I think if Matsuko feels particularly like staying in the basement tomorrow, we won't have to buy linens for years," Sephiroth said. "All this stuff has been up here for decades, from the look of it. But it's in good shape."
"I found some clothing as well. I bet Vincent would get a kick out of it," Sephiroth replied, standing and stretching before retrieving another box. "Perhaps Reno as well. He's still quite lanky. There's some women's clothing as well, though I'm not sure who it would fit at the moment."
"Just don't look at me," Cloud muttered, looking into the box as Sephiroth opened it. "And as much as I like dust and nostalgia, I need to shower and get ready to face Rae with three Turks at my side."
"For Rae's sake, feel free to resort to violence after all," Sephiroth said, closing the box on the clothing and going back to the linens. "Once you leave, I'm going to start carrying these boxes down to the basement."
"Fine, fine," Cloud said, heading for the trapdoor.
He felt bad for Rae - really he did. Cloud was actually thankful that Rae seemed to have enough staff that all she needed to do was occasionally answer the phone but otherwise stay perched near the front door, looking warily over at where she'd quickly seated his group.
"Excuse me," he said, skipping out on his salad even though not a one of the Turks was really paying much attention to him. Apparently their entire meal stipends had run out and they were half-starved.
Sliding up to the bar, Cloud motioned for the bartender to come over. He couldn't remember the girl's name, but he wasn't too worried about it.
"Just keep drinks coming to my table, okay?" he said, sliding a few extra gil across the counter to her.
"Of course, Mr. Strife," she replied, smiling as she took the money. "That's not a problem."
Rae was watching him closely as he went back to the table. Mentally, he made a note to send her flowers as soon as the Turks left town for good.
By the time they'd finished dessert, Cloud knew his three companions were drunk. That was no small feat, either, considering what it took to shake his own insane tolerance to poisons of any sort.
They'd walked, the evening not yet having decided to drop torrential rain on the town. Everything was going according to plan.
Rude and Reno kept walking ahead, pointing stupidly at things and being a bit too loud, but Cloud let his attention be focused on Elena. He'd managed to find a dark-colored dress amongst Pretty's things that actually fit a good bit better on Elena's frame, accentuating curves that were never quite properly displayed under her usual attire.
She clung to his arm, walking slowly and precisely. At least she'd kept drinking, something she'd almost decided against, until Cloud promised to get her home safely.
"Thanks, Cloud," she said, smiling. "This place is so beautiful. Wish we'd get sent nice places more often."
"Where are you usually sent?" Cloud asked, hoping he sounded more concerned than anything. "I didn't even really know that the new ShinRa kept employing you."
"Information, mainly," Elena replied. "'Specially with all the problems that Dr. Hojo left behind."
"Problems?" Cloud asked. He could see Reno up ahead, pants unzipped and pissing in the bushes.
A few seconds later, as Elena began a rambling explanation, Cloud forgot all about Reno. He forgot all about talking, too, until the pair were nearly back to the resort.
Pretty tried the door handle again, wondering why her door was locked from the outside and just why every light had popped on in the entire place despite it being fairly late at night. The term 'lock-down' wasn't familiar to her, but she assumed this was one. One of the less stable patients must have done something, but... The curtains shielding her room from the hallway were in-between layers of glass, controllable only from the outside. She knew the lights were on because it was too bright for the evening and she was awake because the steady beeping that alerted the nurses that her IV had emptied was keeping her from sleeping. But she had to be a low priority at the moment.
Fast footsteps raced by her room, at least four people this time.
A scream pierced the relative silence. Pretty pushed at the door handle again but it did not give.
Voices, again, but she couldn't make them out through the door. And more running.
Another scream echoed through the hall. Pretty could only imagine that whomever was screaming had to be nearby. But there was no possible angle for her to see into the hallway.
Five minutes of silence passed. Then ten. As she went back to sit on her bed, there was an audible click as the lock released and before she could get to the door, it was thrust open and Dr. Lothaire walked in.
"Are you okay?" he asked, motioning for her to head back to her bed and get her IV reconnected. He had a pair of bags in one hand and switched them effortlessly for the empties. "I hope you know you were perfectly safe in here."
"I know," Pretty said. "Vincent told me that there were some people here who needed constant supervision. It's okay."
"You're up," Dr. Lothaire continued. "And you certainly look quite a bit better. Perhaps in another week you'll be ready to start physical rehabilitation as well."
"Two days," Pretty announced, smiling. "I want to start in two days."
There was no way she could admit that she really just wanted out of the room.
"Please?" she asked. "If I get too tired, I'll wait a week before trying again."
"I'll consult with Dr. Ysole," he replied, making a few notes on her chart before heading back out of the room.
The lights in the hallway flickered back to their normal evening half-power. Pretty wasn't tired at all.
After an hour of careful listening and not hearing so much as a lone nurse in the hallway, Pretty disconnected her IV and headed for the door. The handle turned easily, revealing to her the bleak white hallway she'd faced only a handful of times when Dr. Ysole had led her around for tests.
Unsure of just where she was going, she walked carefully, bare feet a bit too noisy on the tile floor for her own comfort. The scar on her ankle was grotesquely white, the skin looking more as though someone had carved it away than anything else. Dr. Ysole had poked at it, asking if Pretty remembered its origin. She didn't. But the pinkish scar on her thigh was a vivid memory. Stitches up her arm - those were from Mideel.
What she couldn't remember was almost more interesting than what she did know, at least to Dr. Ysole.
There was nowhere for her to hide when she heard footsteps from somewhere behind her. Dodging quickly around a corner, she found herself face to face with a door marked 'Supplies'.
Motion lighting surprised her as it clicked on, blinding her for a second. But there were no windows in the door so she couldn't have alerted anyone to her presence.
Besides, she said to herself, she really could use some toilet paper. She was on her last roll and she couldn't see hitting the 'Nurse' button for something so trivial.
Searching the shelves, the toilet paper was in the far back of the room. That was all she needed. That was an acceptable adventure. She could head back. Obviously getting a peek at the other residents of the facility was a more daunting task than she'd thought.
Unless she could pretend to get lost on her way back, toilet paper ingeniously in hand.
She grabbed two rolls and paused as the door opened and familiar footfalls sounded behind her. Years of cooking breakfast with her back turned to every door had taught her to recognize people just by the way they walked - their strides and weight.
But obviously her mind was playing tricks on her. Obviously...
Slowly she turned, ready to explain her presence to whomever had appeared.
Dropping both rolls of toilet paper, she gasped.
"Sorry," a familiar voice said. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"It's okay," Pretty said, feeling frozen to the spot as she tried to reconcile identical features but skin too pale and hair just a bit too short. "It's okay, Angel."
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