He disliked gyms. Well, he rather disliked the people in the gyms, rather than the actual structure and layout itself. It did not change the fact that he disliked them, and thus avoided them as much as possible now.
He disliked the fact that any gym he had once attempted to take part in training in involved a large group of people stopping whatever they were doing to stare at him. Some of these people were more subtle than others, but some walked over to where he was training to stare openly at him in that awe-struck fashion. It always distracted him from what he was attempting to do, and he never enjoyed dropping a 500 lb weight on anyone or himself for that matter. The staring got to him.
The weight room was the place that he disliked the most. There was more muscle in that room than should have been, but a severe lacking of intelligence. He could practically hear the snickers when he walked in, and even he admitted that his meagre 5’6” was not the most intimidating force to have to face. His build was compact with a nice arrangement of muscle, which seemed to lead to the belief that he could not lift a heavy weight for the life of him, even if he had saved the world… twice.
His first day at one particular gym had a rather large man coming up to him and challenging him to a weight lifting contest. He had ignored the challenge and went about his business until that same gentleman ‘accidentally’ dropped a 100 lb weight near him and nearly cracked the floor. The kind request for him to pick it up was easily met with one hand (it was not even something that compared to the weight of his sword), and he then went back to his own warm-up. He was pestered with stray offers and words until he grew slightly annoyed and picked up the maximum weight allowed on a bench-press one handed while still standing up and offered it to the man who continually challenged him. He was thankfully left alone after that incident.
Of course, the media happened to get involved when it came to his training. That distracted him as well, and, while he had come to accept the media as just another element of his life now, it still grated on his nerves when he was attempting to be productive with himself. He would have liked to be able to flex his muscles without having his pictures taken, and he thought it had to have been just as worse for Tifa or maybe even Barret.
He was kindly asked at one point by a manager to not practice any acrobatics too close to the trampolines as his own jumping abilities did not require the use of one. While everyone was awe-struck by his presence when he trained, men grew jealous that such a scrawny young man of 23 could out-compete on every level athletically. The bold women often just propositioned him, which was also a little distracting.
So, he had left the gym life and retreated away to training on his own.
Cloud wrinkled his nose as sweat trickled down it, trying to remember what number of push-ups that he was at. He thought that it was over a hundred by now, but his muscles barely ached at the effort. It meant he was probably not doing it right for his own needs, and he shifted his hold on the floor and kicked himself up into a hand-stand so that all his weight remained on his hands.
Setting his hands more apart so it was more comfortable, he lowered his weight down to the ground until he nearly touched with his chin. The muscles of his arms bulged as he slowly pushed his weight back up before being stretched out fully, only to repeat the process again when he lowered himself to the floor. Up and down, up and down, he worked silently, only the occasional droplet of sweat dripping from his nose or chin.
67, 68, 69, 70…
He paused in his exercising when the ringer of his cell phone went off nearby, causing his head to turn to regard the little black device. Someone always had to call in the middle of training, he thought, not that it frustrated him. It merely tested his ability to multitask.
Walking over on his hands, he looked at the number displayed and picked the device up with one hand, flipping it open. He held it up to his ear and noted a male grumbling on the other line. He knew that voice well enough by now.
“Strife, that package you needed to deliver to Junon. Yeah, those numb-nuts in the back room lost it,” the gruff old man said. “I would fire the damn slackers, but they are more competent than the last bunch of losers.”
Cloud made no noise of displeasure, mostly because a lost package meant that he could take that rushed package up to Kalm early. “How do you lose a marked box of that size,” he asked as he slowly lowered his weight to the floor on one hand, feeling a distinct burn up his bicep as he forced his weight back up.
“Don’t ask me, kid,” he replied, having always called the famous blonde that name. It was nearly double the youth’s age, meaning Cloud was still a ‘kid’ to him. “Sorry to inconvenience you yet again, but I’ll get those slackers going and finding that box of supplies. Can I call you tomorrow about it?”
“You will call me tomorrow regardless,” Cloud pointed out as he continued with the slightly off-balancing one-handed push-ups. He grunted softly at the twentieth one and shook his head to rid his nose of an annoying droplet of sweat. “I can take a package to Kalm tomorrow, so don’t let the lost one bother you.”
“Ha… you’re such an easy-going sod. It makes me wonder how you managed to get that scrawny ass of yours in gear enough to save the world.” The older man paused at the soft sounds on the other side of the line. “You training?”
Cloud paused and glanced around the church, shoving off with his one arm high enough where he landed on his feet easily. “Just a little training. I was doing push-ups.”
“While talking on the phone?”
“Is that a problem, Gryphith?”
“I’m trying to think of the dynamics in which you would do a push-up one handed because I know for a fact your phone isn’t a hands-free one,” Gryphith said wearily then barked some harsh laughter into the mouth-piece of his phone. “Damn, I love you, man. Easy-going and impossible!”
“I should hope you mean ‘love’ in a purely platonic way,” Cloud replied with a hint of dryness in his voice as he walked over to where a towel lay.
Gryphith laughed again and slammed his hand on the counter of his store, making a few customers jump. “I wouldn’t want to take away from your loving fans, Strife. How many times you been propositioned today?”
Cloud just shook his head as he wiped sweat from his brow and face. “I haven’t been propositioned.”
“You been out in public today?”
“…no,” came the weary reply.
“Ha, there’s your problem right there. I had a nice looking female come in asking about you just a few minutes ago… said she wanted to get to know you better so she knew you took care of her packages,” he said and shook his head. “She was showing quite the package in her shirt or lack of. She asked for your number too.”
“Did you give it to her?”
“Nah, I am looking out for you, Strife. If they can’t read a damn phonebook, then they probably aren’t worth rolling in the sheets with,” Gryphith replied and flicked a bit of packing from the counter with his finger. “You been propositioned by a man, yet?”
Cloud rolled his eyes a little and tossed down his towel again. “Good-bye, Gryphith.”
“Ohhhh, one of those ‘Strife doesn’t want to talk about it’ topics, is it? I stumble on more and more of those every time I talk to you,” Gryphith said with another laugh. Getting to actually know the blonde had been a difficult task, but once gaining trust, the external coldness went away. It just took a lot of effort on his part in the beginning. “Right man, I have a customer anyway… I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“I have no doubt,” Cloud replied and disconnected the call, shutting his phone and tossing it on the towel.
Somedays he really wondered why he put up with some of the people that insisted on talking to him regularly. He then remembered his days with Barret and knew why he was so tolerant… or just plain didn’t answer his phone. It depended on his mood and what he was doing at the time, usually.
Sighing softly, he walked over to the glistening pool of water and peered into the crystal depths. It was peaceful here, and no one ever came out here to visit him with the possible exception of Tifa and Marlene. It was the one place he could get away from the rustle and bustle…
…but he had to get back. There were responsiblities.