Rating: R for language...?

Spoilers: Not really...just a lot of musing.

Summary: They eat dinner.

And surprisingly enough, nothing happened, innuendo wise. I guess because I couldn't see Barret doing much with Cloud...or vice versa. They're not really each other's type.

Dinner Date

By Lena ban Obsidian


The thing about Cloud that caught people's attention was his eyes. There was this absolutely terrifying quality of...blindness to them that should have tipped everyone off a hundred times over that everything wasn't wired just right inside his head. It wasn't the mako-burn either, though that was usually the excuse people used to keep themselves from thinking about it too much. SOLDIER wasn't drafting, so it was safe to blame it on over-exposure to a natural poison that nobody was going to be injecting into *their* veins any time soon, thankyouverymuch.

But it wasn't the mako glow, no. There were plenty of Shinra's SOLDIERs that people didn't find hard to get along with at all. There were lots of guys out there with creepy glowing eyes that still weren't disturbing to look at.

It was the way that you were never sure if he saw you standing there, with his pupils pinpoints and that big fuckin' sword in his hands.

It was the way you wondered if, when he was done hacking apart Ruby Dragons and Emerald Weapons...he was going to turn on you.

It wasn't like you could really doubt that the guy had a good heart, under it all, because he tried so damned *hard* to do right by everyone. He cared about Red and he listened to Aeris talk (endlessly) and he spent nights looking at the stars, with Vincent, who probably was the only guy in the world that Cloud could just sit and be creepy with, no questions asked. Mutual creepiness there. Definitely.

Barret sipped his beer again and sighed. Just beyond him, that kid. Definitely held a lot in this world dear, but FUCK. Cloud's head just wasn't screwed on right, and he wasn't sure it ever had been.

Fucking nice thing to think while they were supposed to be trying to enjoy this place. He sniffed into the mug. The Golden Saucer wasn't cheap, but at least they had beer and food for the more mundane needs.

Not that they didn't still charge *ridiculous* amounts of GP.

"Something the matter?" Cloud's too-quiet voice, that strangely subdued tone peculiar to situations when the girls weren't around. He got the feeling that the girls simply frustrated Cloud; flustered him. He didn't know what to *do* around them.

But, yeah. He'd been asked a question, hadn't he? "Nah, jus' thinkin' this place's too damned expensive," he muttered evasively, glancing away. Cloud wasn't just talking to Barret, but *looking* at him, and that *always* made him itch to shoot something. Possibly something with spiky blond hair and bright blue eyes, possibly not.

He really hated moments like this. Moments where the kid *wasn't* too aloof to look at him, wasn't distracted by thoughts or trying to look cool or battle or women or...

"Barret, you haven't even started eating, and you're the one who shouted at the waiter about the bill," Cloud chided, frowning. "What's on your mind?"

Maybe because I'm not too hungry, he thought distractedly, frowning down at the vaguely appetizing burrito on his plate as if it might offer some answer that would keep Cloud from being interested in much more conversation. They didn't usually talk much. They tried really hard, usually, to hate each other.

Cloud frowned, lips tightening into their familiar line, and only after it was gone did Barret realize he'd kind of liked the softness of the younger man's mouth, the openness of it. Deep down he knew that he ought to appreciate Cloud's presence, and ignore the irritating front he put up, but usually it was so difficult to see past the idiot cockiness that he didn't bother.

But that softness. He'd been given a chance to see it and nearly missed it entirely.

"Come to think of it, I've never seen you eat before. Is it difficult?"

He blinked. "Hunh?"

"With your arm," and Cloud's eyes *almost* looked normal when they were narrowed like that, when he was puzzled that Barret hadn't been on the same page of the story as he was. "I'd imagine it's no picnic..."

Barret snorted. "Stop talkin' pretty. Fuck, boy, we mercenaries, and you know me." Glanced down at his arm and smirked a little to himself, though there really wasn't any humor to it. "Ya right, it's not easy, but that ain't why I ain't eatin'. Jus' no appetite."

"No?" There was a sort of genuine interest in Cloud's eyes that Barret had learned you didn't see often in this particular kid. For one reason or another, Cloud seemed to actually want company-- specifically *his*-- right now. And for Cloud, company apparently included conversation.

So he took the leap and looked into those eyes, and they were still mostly blind, yeah, but he was *there* behind them in a way he hadn't been for a long time. "No," Barret agreed. "Not really hungry. Anyways, why ya take me down to eat wi' ya? I know you get along wi' that Vincent guy better than me." And who could blame him? Vincent was always *ever* so accommodating, in a way that smacked of Turk. He wondered now and then if the guy regarded continuing to live as just another job he had to do. But Vincent was certainly more agreeable than himself, Barret *knew*.

"Why did you come down with me?" Cloud countered easily, and they were back on more familiar territory, on the surface, because how fuckin' dismissive could you get, but. The softness in Cloud's mouth was there again. The looseness. So Barret kept puzzling out the answer to his question on his own, his answer slow in coming as he considered the possibilities.

Well, not coming down with *Cid* made sense. Cid was rowdy. And a very unpleasant drunk.

Barret had also learned early in their association that Cloud liked to get drunk. A lot. Maybe that was why? "Dunno. Guess I thought you needed *some* kinda company. You one crazy bastard, Cloud, I can't jus' let ya go 'round with your big-ass sword without comin' along t'make sure nobody piss you off." He grinned wryly. No, he wasn't here for drinking. He was here because Cloud had asked him if he was hungry.

Why had the guy asked? Why him?

Better off thinking it through, really. Cloud didn't answer questions directly unless you had him cornered and there were girls around to make him feel uncomfortable.

But looking back at Cloud, the man was kind of wilting, a little. Looked down into the beer he'd been nursing since the waiter set it on the table, and without a further word, threw back the rest of the mug, chugging like his life depended on it, slamming the mug back down with a gasp and licking foam off his lips. His eyes were distant again.

"...yeah. I am crazy. Aren't I." Flat voiced, and somehow so fucking depressed at the same time that, if he'd been, y'know, the sympathetic puppy-fluffy type, he woulda leaned over to hug the kid and tell him everything would be okay.

However, not *being* that type, and further, being the sort of guy who knew first-hand how fucking twisted the real world was...

"We all are, a little, ain't we?" He answered gamely, considering his mug. Yeah, he could stand a stiff drink, but. Cloud probably needed it.

He nudged it over to the other man, hid his amusement as naive bewilderment crossed that face. Further proof, as far as he was concerned, that Cloud was, indeed, hiding himself behind a cool facade. The only question was really how much of himself.

You could see the wheels turn in the ex-SOLDIER's brain as he weighed the benefits of getting drunk and decided they were entirely worth the hangover, and gingerly lifted the second mug, staring into it, through it.

"...some more than others," he muttered softly, and started on Barret's offering with a little less haste, polishing it in about ten seconds. "You're trying to get me drunk, aren't you?"

He grinned hugely. Maybe a bit meanly. "Not like it'd take much, kid."

Cloud blinked. Looked at him for the longest moment like he *really* wanted to take that personally and then...subsided into a smirk, shook his head at himself. "...sad thing is...you're right. It didn't use to." Peered into the empty mug mournfully and set it down. "Mako raises your tolerance for a lot of things," he mumbled, a little bitter and very far away, eyes not seeing anything that Barret could understand.

Honest, he felt...bad, sitting there, watching Cloud. The moment stretched long and longer while they sat there, and he couldn't think of *anything* to say...anything at all. What *could* you say? 'So, what's it like, bein' shot up full of poison?' 'Hey, I'll bet the allergy testing was fun!' 'Is *that* why you have to pass out before we ever know you're seriously wounded?'

Yeah. None of that was really any good.

Nothing to say.

Cloud wasn't talking. Just staring.

Not seeing. Mako eyes.

He must have...breathed too hard or something, because Cloud snapped out of it and straightened, looking around like he'd been a million miles away. Barret was almost sure he *had*. A vaguely flustered, uneasy look was in possession of the man's smooth, sharp face, making his eyes worried and his mouth a tiny little frown. His lower lip pouted out like a woman's-- probably best not to tell him that. "Uh." Shifted in his seat nervously and shook his head, looking up to Barret in utter confusion. "What were we..." Shut his eyes like he had a headache, and for a moment one could almost have convinced oneself that it really was just a headache, a little bit of a buzz from the alcohol or something. Then Cloud murmured something the lines of 'shut up' and Barret was sure that he'd been talking to one or many voices in his head.

Yeah. They were all crazy. But not like Cloud.

"What were we talking about?" Frustration with himself, for losing the thread of conversation. Cloud pleading with him silently to help him get back down to earth for a little while.

He debated asking questions that might hurt.


"We was talkin' 'bout how much this food stinks," he harrumphed. Maybe sometimes he put up a front too. The kid wasn't so bad. "Why don't we finish up here and go do somethin' fun? You need ta relax." He sniffed. "Both of us."

That naive expression was back and stayed long enough for him to really catch it. Cloud was completely off-guard.

Cloud wasn't such a bad guy like that.

Finally, hesitantly, accepted his offer. "...all right."

But Cloud was still fun to tease, and besides. Barret was no softy. "We tell the girls all 'bout our little date when we get back, too, I'm sure, huh?"

Flustered denial; Cloud forgot entirely about being distant and strange and reacted like he ought to. "What?! N...No! It's not--"

"Whatevah you say, hon," he drawled.

The eyes weren't so hard to look past, if you knew what you were looking for.

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