Barret only picked up that something was wrong when Cloud led him into the bathroom. Tifa had a such a cool and hard to read face that he never could read her. He was positive he had a good read on Cloud.
He decided he was wrong.
“I just…if I’m right, I don’t want the kids to know,” Cloud said. Which explained how he could be all smiles as he served up breakfast. Cloud wasn’t the best actor, but he certainly could hide something.
“What’s wrong,” Barret asked. He knew by the way Cloud hesitated it had to be real bad. Cloud treated most bad news like a bandage; just rip it off so he could see and deal with the damage. This was something more. If Barret knew Cloud as well as he thought he did…then Cloud was scared.
“I felt weird when I woke up,” Cloud said, “and…there was dark droplets on my pillow. When I felt it…I pulled off black goop. It could be…I hope it’s just blood, but…”
“Cloud,” Barret started.
“I need you to check,” Cloud said, “If…if I’ve relapsed, if it’s geostigma again…you’re the one who’ll tell me straight.” Barret looked at him a long time.
“Turn around,” he said at last. Cloud turned and faced the mirror, gripping the edge of the counter. He couldn’t watch in the mirror, just looked down into the sink.
The seconds were agonizing. It wasn’t that it hurt. Years of patching up Marlene’s scrapes and scratches had Barret’s nursing skills down to a near science. It didn’t sting a bit. The worst was just not knowing.
Barret leaned forward and wet down a towel. Cloud felt it rubbing firmly, but gently over the back of his head.
“That’s a nasty cut you got there,” Barret said, “how the hell did that happen without you noticing?”
“But…it’s not?” Cloud looked up finding Barret’s eyes in the mirror. Barret gave him a stern look and held up the messy towel. Reddish brown, but no black.
Cloud’s legs gave out on him. He fell against the counter. He didn’t realize he was sobbing until Barret started dabbing at his eyes with toilet paper, murmuring quiet comforting words.
“We are goin’ to a doctor though,” Barret said, “that’s deep and looks like it might need stitches. And I want it cleaned out proper, no Tifa dumping vodka on it and calling it good.” Cloud just nodded, too relieved to argue.
“Hey,” Denzel said, coming in and holding up a book, “Cloud, this was on your floor…why’s it all bloody?”
“Son of a bitch!” Cloud said.
“Language!” Tifa shouted across Seventh Heaven.
“I told you that bookshelf wasn’t holdin’ nothin,” Barret said, “You’re taking it off the wall.”