Title: Day Trip
Author: Page of Cups
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Warnings: Some profanity
Theme: 27. Overflow
Disclaimer: I so don’t own Kingdom Hearts it isn’t even funny. Sometimes I do in my hallucinations, but I have problems, so that doesn’t count.
Author’s Note: This is based on autobiographical events, and no, I am not kidding. Dear, sweet Philadelphia, how I love thee.
“Come on,” Cloud muttered. “Move. Go. Drive. Do something.” From his peripheral vision he saw Riku shiver and it was all he could do not to hit the steering wheel. It was also around this time that Cloud decided it was probably best to never make plans again; there was something divine in the cosmos that always made something go wrong. A talent for spontaneity was severely underrated.
It was supposed to be a vacation—just a week-long stay in Edge to escape the pressures of running the garage and put an end to the harassing calls from Tifa inquiring as to when he’d come visit again because ‘the kids missed’ him. Cloud had even gone to the trouble of booking a room at one of Edge’s many hotels to prevent any awkward feelings Riku might have had staying at Tifa’s and to increase his chances of getting laid on the trip. They had made plans, of course, so they’d have things to do on their vacation, but they had allowed ample time for lounging and all plans were made months in advance so they could pack accordingly. It was supposed to be relaxing; Cloud needed the break and he fully intended that come hell or Sephiroth (which was, essentially, the same thing) he was going to have a good time.
It started better than he could have expected. Cloud got Zack to take over things at the garage before they left; there were no fights packing. They were up on time and out the door the morning of departure and even the flight from Destiny Islands to Edge went smoothly. In retrospect, however, Cloud should have known better, because this was Gaea they were going to, after all, and if things had ever gone right in Gaea for Cloud his many flirtations with mako poisoning had erased all the memories.
It was after they checked into the hotel, unpacked, and headed over to Tifa’s that the first hiccup in the trip occurred. Three months ago when Cloud and Riku first made their vacation plans, Tifa begged and pleaded her way into forcing Cloud to agree to a two-day trip to Costa del Sol during their visit. The kids (Tifa’s weapon of choice) wanted to see the beach, she said. Cloud tried repeatedly to tell her that he and Riku already lived at a beach and when that didn’t work, explained the stranger points of leaving a beach to visit a different beach for vacation, but the promise of Marlene and Denzel’s disappointed faces won out. Cloud and Riku packed accordingly and now that they were here Tifa dropped the bomb. She couldn’t find anyone to take over the bar for two days, refused to close shop because they ‘just couldn’t afford that’, and Marlene, in a huff, declared that if Tifa couldn’t go, she wasn’t going, either. Denzel, forever attached to Marlene’s hip, wasn’t going if Marlene wasn’t going, and to assuage them both Rude brought home a baby chocobo. Riku, with all his good intentions, tried to convince them to come along anyway, but baby Cloud (Tifa had the nerve to chuckle when Marlene announced baby chocobo’s name) just couldn’t be parted from, and now Cloud and Riku were on their own.
“I’m not going all the way to Costa del Sol for just the two of us,” said Cloud after dinner. “It’s too far and if I really want to stare at the ocean...”
“I know,” said Riku. “Why don’t we just go somewhere else? We weren’t paying for the hotel, anyway, so it’s not like we’re losing money by not going.”
“Yeah...” said Cloud, sighing. “I just don’t know where to go instead.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know this world really well.”
“You could go to Wall Market,” said Tifa. “Do some shopping.”
“Shopping?” said Riku. He turned to Cloud. “I like shopping.”
“Eh...Wall Market’s kind of shady,” said Cloud. “And besides, the Midgar Slums are completely trashed these days. I’m surprised that place is even running anymore, to be honest with you.”
Tifa rolled her eyes and shook her head. “No, not the old Wall Market. That place has been abandoned for ages. And it wasn’t that bad. You’re just still sore about that having to dress in drag incident.”
“What dress in drag incident?” said Riku.
“There was no dress in drag incident,” said Cloud. He glared at Tifa. “And if there was, I wouldn’t still be sore about it.”
“You are,” said Tifa. She looked to Riku. “I was trying to get information out of this pervert about Shinra, but Cloud assumed I had been kidnapped and insisted on coming to save me. Only girls were allowed into Don Corneo’s house, though, so Aerith dragged him around Wall Market fixing him up to be the prettiest girl you’ve ever seen.”
Riku smirked. “Aw, Cloud, I never knew you liked to dress in women’s clothes.”
“I don’t like to dress in women’s clothes,” Cloud snapped. “And anyway, I didn’t have a choice.”
“For the record, Don Corneo decided Cloud was the prettiest of all three of us girls and picked him for a very special night together,” Tifa said, smirking.
“Did you have to tell him that part?” said Cloud.
“Yes,” said both Tifa and Riku.
“How was he?” Riku added.
“I don’t know. I didn’t do anything with him. Tifa and Aerith burst in and I threatened to cut off his balls if he didn’t tell us what he was up to.”
“I see. So if Tifa and Aerith hadn’t shown up...”
“I would have done the same thing.” Cloud huffed. “Anyway, the old Wall Market full of sex fiends is dead. What about the new Wall Market?”
“Oh, right,” said Tifa, laughing. “Well with the old Wall Market gone there was a need for a shopping district so Shinra...”
“Ah,” said Cloud. “Right. Not interested.”
“Let me finish.” Tifa sighed and rolled her eyes. “I mean, really, do you always have to hear Shinra and just shoot it down?”
“Come on. It’s not that bad. Shinra’s been doing a lot of good these days trying to kiss ass and get the public favor again.”
“They should kiss ass.”
“And anyway, we really did need a new shopping district, but Edge was already getting really crowded from Midgar refugees from on the plate and the slums so they started building farther east on the continent...when was it, Rude? Two...one and a half...”
“Just about two years ago,” said Rude. “They just started with housing, but income’s been slow. There hasn’t been enough money to finish all the work in Edge much less start a new project so they brought back Wall Market to create jobs and generate income.”
“It’s been really great for Edge, too, because so many people who already had lives set up here just work over in Wall Market without needing to relocate,” said Tifa. “So, see. Shinra is doing something good for a change.”
Cloud thought Tifa’s sudden desire to defend Shinra probably had something to do with Rude being a devout Shinra employee but thought better than to mention it.
“Yeah, right,” said Cloud. “So what? Wall Market isn’t the spot for prostitutes anymore?”
Tifa sighed. “No, it isn’t a place for prostitutes, anymore. Honestly, Cloud, is that all you remember about Wall Market?”
“I had a scarring experience in the Honeybee Inn thanks to Aerith, okay? I think I’ve earned some prejudice against that place. Those hookers put makeup on me.”
“And you looked adorable.”
“This is starting to sound more and more like a story that needed pictures,” said Riku. Cloud glared. “I love you?”
“Anyway,” said Tifa, “you should really go. There’s tons of unusual little stores if you want to go shopping, and they’ve got some really fantastic places to eat. Rude and I went over there for a festival last month and we had a really good time. The drive’s about an hour and a half from here if you take the new highway system and you can borrow our car so Riku doesn’t have to hang onto shopping bags and cling to you on that stupid bike of yours.”
“Fenrir isn’t stupid,” said Cloud.
“I do hate having to hang on the back of that bike for too long, though,” said Riku. “I think it sounds like fun. We can go shopping, and it would be nice to spend a day with just the two of us.”
And just like that Riku managed to melt away all of Cloud’s reservations about any place called Wall Market. There was that lilt in Riku’s voice—the one he got when he really wanted to do something, but didn’t want to put the pressure on. He smiled that sweet smile he sometimes got that could make Cloud, however begrudgingly, hug Sephiroth. To top it off he threw out the magical words ‘just the two of us’ that immediately reminded him of all the time they spent that wasn’t just the two of them and he was agreeing before he knew what was coming out of his mouth.
Riku smiled, kissed him, and said, “I’m looking forward to spending the entire day with you.”
It was moments like these that made Cloud think Riku could probably talk him into wearing pink if he tried hard enough. “So am I,” Cloud replied. The disturbing reality was that it was the truth.
Cloud vowed he would never make plans again.
He should have known there would be trouble today from the moment it was Riku and not he that wouldn’t get out of bed until there was coffee. The cool, damp Edge weather was something Cloud was used to. After living on Gaea and Hollow Bastion...Radiant Garden...whatever that place was called these days...for most of his life where long sleeves were a summer attire option, the heat and humidity of Destiny Islands was still difficult to handle after two years. Riku, however, was just the opposite, and after spending five days in Edge he was already developing a cough. Cloud might have mentioned that maybe he should cut back on the smoking, but Cloud valued all his vital organs so he settled for running out for cold medicine and cough drops yesterday and made sure to include Riku’s cold into the equation when packing for the day trip in Wall Market the night before. Now it was six-thirty in the morning, Cloud was unhappy to be awake to get ready for the trip to Wall Market, and when he tried to wake Riku, the only reply he got was a mumbled explanation of how little sleep he got thanks to the cold and that Riku would only open his eyes for coffee.
The plan for the day was to get up at six-thirty and leave by eight for Wall Market so that they’d arrive around ten. It was seven by the time Cloud returned to the hotel with coffee and ten after seven by the time Riku sat up enough to drink it. After a long coughing fit, Riku started what had become his usual morning routine since they started living together and he no longer had demanding morning commitments. He smoked a cigarette while he nursed the coffee and told Cloud every detail he remembered about any and all dreams he managed to have during the night. He smoked a second cigarette while he nursed the coffee and told Cloud every detail about how he couldn’t sleep. He nursed the coffee between cigarettes and told Cloud about every incident that he woke up cold because Cloud was stealing the covers or how loud he’d been snoring and that one time Cloud had kicked him in his sleep, and then promised he’d get dressed after one more cigarette which turned into two. Cloud was dressed and ready and sent out for more coffee by the time Riku made it to the bathroom for his morning piss and he returned to Riku just starting to get dressed after his shower. He took another eight minutes to smoke a cigarette, tell Cloud about his shower, his coughing fit after his shower, and then requested Cloud blow-dry his hair for him because “it comes out better when you do it.”
Cloud suggested they bag the whole day trip since Riku wasn’t feeling well. The fuss he got in reply suggested it was a very wrong thing to say. Cloud thought better than to point out the fact Riku was fussing indicated he was feeling worse than he was letting on and decided if Riku valued their shopping trip this much, it was best at this point to just not say anything.
They made it to Tifa’s and on the road just after ten. Cloud tried to pretend he didn’t notice they were two hours behind schedule.
Things started to look better on the drive. They were two hours behind, sure, but they’d still get plenty of hours to walk around Wall Market before it got dark. The drive was easy and straightforward. Riku spent a better duration of the trip flipping between songs on the radio and singing along to his favorites. Cloud’s mood even improved listening to him and sneaking glances. It was nice, being alone for a change, without Leon and Sora hanging around, or Tifa hovering over them, or hearing about how he was covered in grease and oil and it wasn’t as sexy as people make it out to be. They joked about Leon and his strange penchant for leather. They talked about Sora’s weird desire to be friends with everyone and his new appreciation for dancing in clubs. Cloud focused on the road and for the first time in a long time just relaxed, laughed, smiled even when Riku took his hand, and just listened to Riku talk.
He was thankful for the directions Tifa insisted on giving him when they first got sight of Wall Market. No longer was it the small shopping district in the Sector Six slums and part of Cloud thought it was just wrong that this place bore the same name. Wall Market had become a huge city, rival to the old Midgar. The closer they got into the city, the more congested traffic became. Some intersections were manned by low-level Shinra grunts wearing the same blue uniform Cloud had worn so long ago. Riku got out the directions, and when they finally got the parking lot Tifa pointed them to, they found out why traffic was so hectic.
“Sorry,” the lot attendant said. “We’re full right now.”
“Is there another lot nearby or a garage or something?” said Cloud. “This is our first time here so I don’t really know where to go...”
The lot attendant glanced at Riku inside the car and made the kind of face that just screamed homophobic. Cloud took a breath and tried to quell his already raising temper.
“There’s a few in this area so all I can say is to just drive around and try your luck. You’re gonna have trouble finding parking today, though, thanks to the Flower Show.”
Cloud saved his questions for just what a Flower Show was once he and Riku were alone again. He sighed. “All right. Thanks.”
“For nothing,” Riku muttered next to him as Cloud pulled away. “What an asshole. Did you see the way he looked at me?”
“Yes,” Cloud said, sighing. “What the hell is a Flower Show?”
Riku snickered. “Who knows? Something for retired old biddies to go to and look at flowers, I guess.”
Four full lots and forty-five minutes of bumper to bumper traffic while driving in circles later Cloud had resigned that they may never set foot on land again and Riku started losing his temper. They pulled up to a red light and a car horn sounded behind them.
“Oh for fuck’s...” said Riku. “Just because you honk doesn’t mean the traffic’s moving any faster!”
“Really,” said Cloud. “Wait your turn. The light’s red for fuck’s sake!”
“I’m gonna lose it if we don’t park soon,” said Riku. “I really am. If one more asshole cuts us off, or starts blowing their horn, or drives like a douchebag I’m going to get out of this car and...”
“I know, baby. My patience is wearing thin, too.”
The light turned green and one of the Shinra guards motioned for them to drive through. Another motioned a crowd of people to cross the street. A third just stared at them. Cloud sighed.
“Are we going?” said Riku.
“I need to turn.”
It was after several seconds that the staring guard finally caught on, motioned for them to wait, and watched the large crowd of people crossing the street. The other guard, still stupid, motioned more violently for them to drive through.
“Do you need to turn?” the staring guard mouthed and motioned for turning.
“Yes!” Riku screamed. Cloud nodded.
He nodded and watched again. The stupid guard kept motioning.
“You really need to turn?” the staring guard asked again.
“Yes!” Riku screamed louder.
“Oh dear Shiva...” Cloud muttered. “We said yes, he acknowledged we said yes, and then he asks again. And that idiot still hasn’t noticed my turn signal is on.”
“I’m going to kill these people, Cloud. If I had my Keyblade...”
“I mean what does he want me to do? Just turn and run over all two hundred of those people in the street?”
“All two hundred old biddies carrying their potted plants. Run ‘em down, baby.”
“My turn signal is on. It’s like...the universal, legal signal for turning, and this...He’s asking again.”
“Yes!” Riku screamed, sticking his head out his window.
The crowd crossing the street thinned and Cloud turned without being motioned, making a point to stick his head out the window and yell, “You’re job isn’t that hard, you know!”
“You tell ‘em, baby,” said Riku once they were farther down the street.
“Well it’s not. I used to be one of those people and I wasn’t even that stupid.”
“And that’s saying a lot.”
“Oh, baby, there’s another lot.”
“Over there. On my side. To the right. Says ‘Park’.”
“In front of your face, baby.”
“Turn here. Right.”
Cloud took the turn into a narrow alleyway and pulled up beside the lot attendant.
“Please tell me you have parking,” said Cloud. “I’ve been driving around this place for almost a freakin’ hour and I’m about to lose it.”
“It’s gonna be 150 gil,” said the attendant. “Was 50 about an hour ago, but there’s so many people looking for places to park they raised the price.”
“150...” said Cloud.
“What the hell is gil?” said Riku.
“Gaea currency,” said Cloud. “Yeah, okay. We’ll do it.”
“Really?” said the attendant. He looked genuinely shocked. “All right. Just a moment.” He ran off toward a booth.
“How much is 150 gil?” said Riku.
“Enough to buy a low-grade sword with,” said Cloud, sighing. “I just...I don’t care right now. I just want to get the hell out of this car. It’s already going on one.”
“Yeah, I’ve had enough of this.”
The lot attendant returned and there was a short, mad rush to gather everything they needed in the car before they got out and left their keys with the attendant. “Enjoy the show,” he called after them as they headed down the street and Riku pulled out the maps.
Riku looked to Cloud. “Why do people just assume we’re going to the Flower Show because we’re gay?”
“I don’t know, baby.”
“Do we look like the kind of people that would enjoy something as retarded as a Flower Show?”
“I hope not.”
“Yes, that we do enjoy.”
Riku snorted. “You enjoy. I prefer my ass fucked. Which, I suppose, is why we are assumed to enjoy something as retarded as a Flower Show.”
“Eh. Who cares? We’re on land and that’s all I care about.”
Riku sighed. “My legs are so cramped from all of that.”
“So...What would you like to do?”
“I don’t know. Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know where anything is.”
“Tifa circled some places on the map. We could go check them out.”
Unfortunately, the evil that was the Flower Show was only just the start to the Wall Market day trip. First, after careful staring at the map they made it to one area Tifa had circled that was close to their parking lot, but since Tifa had circled rather largely, her circle encompassed a three block radius they were currently standing in the middle of. They wandered up and down crowded sidewalks, looking for what Tifa could have possibly thought might be of interest to them, and Cloud was forced to grab Riku’s wrist several times and say, “Buddy system,” before they came to a large store that remotely struck Riku’s interest.
Cloud couldn’t deny the merchandise inside the bazaar was beautiful. Yuffie, he thought, would just die in here. It was full of Wutai imports—clothing, furniture, jewelry boxes, and other assorted items that all carried a hefty price tag. Cloud followed Riku around the store, extra careful not to get too close to any of the fragile merchandise.
“Do you see anything you like?” said Cloud after twenty minutes of following Riku to every nook and cranny of the store.
“Um...everything?” said Riku. “I don’t know. I’d like to look around at other stores first and then come back later since it’s right by the car.”
“Yeah, okay,” said Cloud. He turned to follow Riku out of the store, but then a resounding crash was heard and an employee rushed over faster than Leon at a fur-trimmed, leather jacket sale.
“Nice one,” said Riku.
Cloud just shook his head and sighed as he paid the hefty sum of 500 gil for a broken tea set.
“What the hell am I going to do with this?” said Cloud as they left the store, shaking the bag at Riku.
“Easy. You don’t want to break it more.”
“500 gil for a broken tea set...”
“Are you going to throw it away?”
“I don’t know. What the hell are we going to do with it?”
“Maybe Cid can glue it back together for you.”
“Why do I need Cid to glue it back together for me?”
“Because if you did it, you’d glue your fingers together.”
“I can do some things, you know.”
“I know. You’re great with your automobile tinkering. Superglue just isn’t your thing.”
“It’s a really nice tea set, too, but it’s going to look so stupid, and what the hell do we need a tea set for? We aren’t that homosexual.”
“Hey, I drink tea.”
“Do you want it? We can keep it.”
“No; it’s broken. It’s just going to look ugly. Give it to Tifa or something.”
“Yes, because I want to tell Tifa the story of how I broke a 500 gil tea set with my ass.”
“You might as well because I’m just gonna tell her, anyway.”
Cloud sighed as they continued walking down the street. “How the hell does a person break a tea set with their ass?”
“I don’t know, but you managed to do it.”
“It’s not even like I have a huge ass!” Riku raised his eyebrows and looked away. “What?”
“You have gained some weight since we opened the garage and you stopped chasing after Sephiroth.”
Cloud stopped walking and stared. Riku turned to face him. “Excuse me?”
“It’s nothing. It’s not like you’re fat or anything...”
“I can’t believe you just said that.”
“You’ve just gained a little weight, that’s all. It doesn’t look bad.”
“Then why’d you point it out?”
Riku shrugged. “I was just saying...”
“That I’ve gotten fat.”
“I said you aren’t fat. It’s not a lot.”
“Enough to be noticeable.”
“Well, yeah, Cloud, I see you naked all the time, not to mention you’re climbing on top of me at least once a week. You’d think I would notice if you’d gained some weight. It doesn’t look bad; I just noticed. Really.”
Cloud huffed and started walking down the sidewalk again. Riku hurried to catch up.
“Oh, come on,” said Riku. “You’re sexy. It doesn’t matter.”
“Is that why you don’t want to have sex with me as much anymore? Because I got fat?”
“Oh my...Cloud, you’re being stupid. I never stopped wanting to have sex with you. I’m just tired more because I’ve been helping you out at the garage and engine oil doesn’t turn me on. I don’t think you’re fat.”
“I’m not stupid.”
Riku sighed. “You are right now...”
Cloud stopped walking again and glared. Riku sighed, closed the space between them, and grabbed his hips.
“I don’t think you’re fat,” said Riku. He kissed Cloud’s cheek and brushed his nose against Cloud’s ear. “I think you’re very sexy. I’m sorry if I made you feel bad.”
Cloud frowned and looked away. “You really don’t think I’m fat?”
Cloud sighed. “Okay.”
“Okay. Now...Can we go shop some more? Buy something that isn’t broken?”
“Yeah, all right.”
“Okay. Let’s go, then.”
Riku pulled back and started walking again. After stopping in a few more shops and buying nothing, Riku mentioned a clothing store Tifa had suggested he might like and they set out to find it based on Tifa’s crude circles on the Wall Market map. They got lost twice, but Cloud managed to calm down when Riku took his hand.
“I know this is crazy, but I really am having a good time with you,” said Riku.
Cloud ignored the few stares of the people surrounding them on the busy sidewalks and gave Riku’s hand a small squeeze.
“So am I.”
At least he was until they finally found the clothing store, went inside, and Riku stared at the escalator as if it were going to eat him. After thirty seconds, Cloud discovered that the escalator trying to kill him was exactly what Riku thought was going to happen. He moved to step on it no less than fifteen times and grew increasingly hysterical, going into small tantrums when other shoppers passed them, staring.
“What do you want me to do? Carry you?”
“No!” said Riku.
Cloud’s patience thin, he huffed and eventually just stepped on the escalator hoping Riku would follow.
“Cloud!” said Riku.
“It isn’t going to bite you; come on.”
“No! Come back! Don’t leave me down here!”
“I can’t! I’m on an escalator! You come!”
Cloud rode it to the top, waited, and when Riku still didn’t follow, he took the other escalator down and asked a sales clerk for directions to the elevator.
“I don’t why you had to do that,” said Riku after the elevator doors closer. “You are such an asshole.”
“It’s just an escalator. It isn’t going to eat you.”
“Yes, it is. People get stuck in those things all the time.”
Riku’s tone suggested it wasn’t wise to point out that the ratio of people eaten by escalators to people not eaten was in favor of the survivors. Once on the second level of the store Cloud trailed after Riku to every sales rack Riku took interest in. He waited twenty minutes outside a dressing room, trying to find a real opinion about everything Riku tried on (Cloud had learned ages ago that having no opinion made Riku angry), and eventually spent an additional 500 gil on designer jeans Riku just had to have to make up for the escalator incident. He didn’t even bother to head for the escalator for the ride back down.
“I don’t know why people can’t just have stationary stairs,” Riku said as the left the store.
“At least they had an elevator.”
“Yeah, I don’t like those, either.”
There was no point in arguing.
“So what should we do now?” said Riku.
“I have no idea. How long have we been walking around?”
Riku glanced at his watch. “It’s just about four now so...three hours? Yeah. Why?”
“Because I have no idea how long we have that lot space for. They never said anything in all of the Flower Show craziness and I just realized.”
“Does it say anything on the ticket?”
“Oh, yeah. Hours vary by location. How helpful is that?”
“Well aren’t lots usually for twelve hours or something? Besides, we paid 150 gil, right? That’s gotta be twelve hours at least.”
“I don’t know; it depends. Sometimes they actually have closing times where you actually have to be back by a certain time or you’re not getting your car until they open the next day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of being stuck here overnight because we didn’t know what time to go back, and I really don’t like the idea of having to pay more just because we showed up later than we paid for.”
Riku sighed. “Yeah, okay. Well...I don’t know. What do you want to do?”
“Well...Isn’t that music place Tifa was talking to you about on the other side of Wall Market?”
“Yeah, I think so. Why?”
“Well to get there we have to pass the lot so why don’t we head that way and stop on our way over to find out about the time limit?”
Riku considered and then nodded. “Yeah, okay. How far are we from the lot?”
“Let me see the map.” Riku passed over the sheet of paper and Cloud gave it a look. He sighed. “You don’t want to know.”
Riku sighed, buried his face in his arm, and coughed. “Okay. Let’s go.”
“Are you sure? We can just get in the car and go home now if you’re not feeling well.”
“I’m all right.”
“I don’t know. You’ve been unusually whiny today...”
“I have not.”
“I didn’t mean...You’ve just been short tempered and a little cranky, that’s all.”
“I have not been short tempered and cranky.”
“I’m not trying to offend you. You just get like this when you’re sick and I don’t want you to push yourself. It’s really cold and windy and you’re already sick on top of it, not to mention you’re not exactly used to this kind of weather. I’m not even that used to it, anymore, so if you want to cut it short...”
Riku sighed. “No, I’m okay. Really. I’m just a little tired because I didn’t get much sleep last night. I’m cold, but we’re going to go in more stores and we had plans to get dinner here so...And anyway, we’ve been wandering around for three hours and we’ve only been in, like, four or five stores.”
Cloud hesitated, wondering if he should push the situation or let it go and eventually decided to just drop it. Riku had been looking forward to this shopping excursion, shopaholic as he was, since Tifa first mentioned it. He nodded and continued walking in the direction of the parking lot. “Yeah, okay.”
They spent the next twenty minutes navigating through the bustling city that the new Wall Market had become. Cloud pointed in the direction they needed to go when they came across intersections and fought the urge to say anything every time Riku coughed, shivered, or lit a cigarette. They were halfway to the lot when Riku moved in close to him.
“I don’t like this, Cloud,” he half-whispered.
Riku motioned his head to the left. Cloud glanced over and then looked ahead again. One of the homeless men sitting along the wall started asking for change and Cloud kept walking ahead as if he never heard anything.
“The new Homeless Row in the new Wall Market,” said Cloud. “How appropriate.”
“They’re freaking me out.”
“Just don’t make eye contact and you’ll be fine.”
“No, seriously, Cloud, I hate this.”
“Just don’t make eye contact. I know you’re privileged enough to live in a place that isn’t swarmed with homeless people, but this used to happen in the Midgar slums all the time. Just pretend they’re part of the scenery and they’ll leave you alone. It’s when you look at them that they know you’re a target for cash.”
“Which way are we going?”
“Through the scary tunnel?”
“It’s daylight, Riku. It’ll be fine. You have nothing to worry about, and it’s not like I couldn’t kick the shit out of them if I wanted.”
“Not without First Tsurugi. You’re unarmed, I’m unarmed, they’re freaking me out, and I don’t like that tunnel, Cloud.”
“Do you want me to put my arm around you or something to protect you?”
“No,” said Riku as if it were a stupid suggestion. “You need both arms free just in case something happens.”
“Nothing’s going to happen.”
“I cannot believe someone who traipsed through corridors of darkness like they were a normal method of travel is afraid of homeless people.”
“They freak me out; I’m sorry. And ‘traipsing’ through corridors of darkness is nothing like this. I was armed and had powers and I think me still being afraid of homeless people just proves that I’m well-adjusted despite everything.”
“Yes, dear. I’m sorry. You’re right.”
“You could say it like you mean it.”
Cloud threw his arm around Riku’s shoulder. “It’s going to be okay, baby. I promise.”
“What did I tell you about keeping your arms free?”
Cloud sighed, smiled, shook his head, and retracted his arm. “Yes, dear.”
They continued walking in an amicable silence only broken by Riku’s sigh of relief and the statement, “I’m glad that’s over,” when they emerged, unscathed, on the other side of the tunnel. Cloud buried another urge to tell Riku “I told you so,” and they headed the rest of the way toward the lot. By the time they arrived it was close to five and Cloud watched in amused silence as the annoyed parking lot attendant and a bitchy Riku tried to sort out what each other were trying to say until it was finally cleared up that they needed to be back by nine o’clock or they were stranded in Wall Market until six the following morning. Riku complained about the parking lot attendant the entire way to the next block.
“So do you want to eat dinner now and then go to the music store or do you want to do the music store first?” said Riku.
“That’s really up to you. I mean...”
“Just make the decision for me, okay,” said Riku. He coughed again. “I’m just...You decide.”
“How much do you want to check it out?”
“I don’t know. I’m cold and my lungs hurt.”
“Are you sure you want to keep going? Because we can just go eat dinner now and then go back to Edge, but if you want to go to the music store I think we should go there first while we still have light.”
Riku threw his hands up. “You decide.”
“All right. Let’s just...walk...and I’ll think about it.”
So they started walking. They made it seven blocks and then Cloud heard it before he saw it.
It wasn’t a big puddle. Just a small puddle right up by the curb formed by the bit of melting snow still in Wall Market from a storm that occurred a few days before they arrived in Edge. The sidewalks were crowded so Cloud was walking a little ahead, glancing back frequently to make sure Riku was still the person behind him coughing. And just as he was lost in thought on whether to just eat dinner now and call it a day he heard the truck roll by, the tidal wave splash, and the sharp intake of breath right by his ear.
He didn’t mean to laugh, but it was all Cloud could do looking at Riku completely dry from the front and soaked head to toe from the back. Riku’s mouth was still hanging open as if he didn’t know what to do next.
“Let’s go home,” said Cloud.
“How bad is it?”
“You don’t want to know. Come on. We’re going home.”
“No...Let’s just...Let’s go eat dinner at least.”
“Riku,” said Cloud, circling to his back and laughing, “seriously, we need to go. You’re already sick, the temperature is near freezing, it’s windy, and you’re soaked. We need to go.”
“Is it really that bad? How’s my butt?”
“Riku, let me put it this way: I’ve seen you refuse to go out in public with water spots an eighth of the size. We need to go before you get sicker than you already are.”
“Are you sure? I mean...” Riku turned and looked at Cloud, wide-eyed and lost in such a way Cloud had never quite seen him look before. “It’ll be warm in a restaurant.”
“And it’ll be freezing when we come back out. Come on. Let’s just go to the car. You brought those sweatpants to change into for the way home, so that’s good. You won’t be wet.”
“I don’t have a shirt.”
Cloud sighed. “We’ll stop in a shop on the way back to the lot and get you a dry shirt. Let’s just go.”
Cloud didn’t give Riku a chance to argue. He slung his arm around Riku’s back and guided him back in the direction of the lot. He was still laughing when they walked into the first store that looked like it might carry clothing.
“I’m sorry, baby,” said Cloud as he sorted through the first pile of shirts he came to. “I don’t mean to laugh, it’s just...It’s just one of those things where I don’t know what else to do.”
“It’s okay...” said Riku, his voice strangely distant and quiet.
“I am, baby. I am so sorry this happened to you...Hey, look, this one has a chocobo on it.”
Riku’s face crumbled a little. He nodded. “Okay.”
“Is this good?”
Riku dumbly nodded.
“Okay. Is there anything else you want? I saw they have blankets. You love blankets.”
“I do like blankets...”
“Do you want a blanket?”
Riku dumbly nodded again. “Yeah.”
“Okay. Come on.”
Cloud waited patiently, trying not to laugh at the unfortunate situation they were in as Riku picked out a navy blanket with a baby chocobo print on it. He then paid for their purchases and guided Riku back onto the streets and toward the lot.
The helplessness of laughter faded as he huddled Riku under his arm and guided him through the cold. He had one goal and that was to get Riku dry and warm as fast as possible. He resisted one last urge of the day in not punching anyone when the irritated parking lot attendant was short with them as they arrived and muttered something that Cloud was sure was a gay slur as he went to retrieve the car.
They were back on the road, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic by six. He had the heat in the car turned to an uncomfortable level but Riku was still shivering, sitting in his wet clothes in the passenger seat.
“Why don’t you change now, baby?”
“The car windows aren’t tinted.”
Cloud sighed and looked around. “Yeah, but it’s starting to get dark, and you’re wet. Just change.”
“I don’t have underwear to change into.”
“So don’t wear underwear. It’s better than wearing wet underwear.”
“I’m sorry we didn’t get to eat dinner.”
Cloud sighed and smiled. He ruffled Riku’s hair. “Don’t worry about it. Just get out of those clothes and get warm. Wrap yourself up in the blanket.”
“I really like my blanket. Thank you.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Cloud inched the car forward and tapped on the steering wheel. “Just take care of yourself. I’m worried about you right now.”
“I’m sorry we didn’t have a very good day.”
“What are you talking about? I had a good time.”
“I know, but there was that Flower Show, and all the people staring at us, and then I was annoying you about the escalator and the homeless people, and you thought I called you fat, and I don’t think you’re fat. I really mean that. I think you’re very sexy.”
Cloud laughed. “I know. It’s okay. I really did have a good day.”
“And you spent so much money on me.”
“It’s okay. I don’t mind. I had a good day with you.”
“I love you so much. I thought I was gonna cry when we were in that store, but you saved me, and you were so hot taking charge like that...”
“It’s okay. Really. But you can keep loving me up if you want.”
“I do. I’m gonna give you such good sex when we get back.”
“Don’t worry about it. You’re going to be tired when we get back. Just change and get warm and rest when we get back.”
“Oh, so you don’t want my sex,” said Riku. He finally started to undress. “That’s not like you.”
“No, I want your sex, I’d just rather you take care of yourself right now.”
“I know. I will. But I’m still gonna give you such good sex or at least a good kiss when we get back. I mean it, Cloud. You’ve been so great today and I just love you so much.” Riku pulled on the sweatpants and then started working on the shirt. “Thank you for today. I did have a good time with you.”
“So did I. Use the blanket.”
Fully changed, Riku huddled under the blanket and leaned against the car door, shivering.
“Why don’t you turn on some music?” said Cloud. “Maybe it’ll make you feel a little better.”
Riku nodded and flipped on the radio. Cloud drummed the steering wheel and watched Riku shiver and cough from his peripheral vision. He sighed. Despite everything, it really had been a good day. He just wasn’t making plans again. Ever. Because the cosmos hated Cloud’s plans and wanted to make a sick Riku even sicker by drenching him in cold water in the winter season. Cloud also decided Wall Market, however different it may be, still sucked and was probably still ridden with hookers. Right now all he wanted to do was get Riku back to the warm hotel room, shove cold medicine down his throat, and put him safely into bed.
“Come on,” said Cloud. “Move. Go. Drive. Do something.” He drummed the steering wheel again and watched Riku shiver.
“I’m tired,” said Riku.
“Go to sleep. I’ll wake you when we get back.”
“No, Riku, I’m going to make you sleep in the car.”
Riku laughed. “That’s not what I meant. Just don’t carry me in all helpless or anything. Or at least don’t do it without waking me first so I can at least enjoy my sexy boyfriend carrying me around or something.”
“I hope you still love me this much later because I’m kind of enjoying this.”
“I’ll wake you when we get back so you can enjoy me carrying you around.”
“And I want the good, passionate kiss.”
Cloud nudged Riku’s shoulder and then discreetly turned up the heat. “Go to sleep.”
Riku laughed. “Okay. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”