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Optimal Scenario, File 2.0

Title: Optimal Scenario

Warnings: Contains not-particularly graphic shonen ai, mild language, and violence.

Summary: FFVII, Vincent/Cloud. Shelke decides to play matchmaker. This mostly seems to involve tormenting Cloud.

Author's Note: Next chapter! Nothing to say about it, really. Hope everyone is having a good week so far.


File 1.0



>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

File 2.0

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


Shelke’s computer at Seventh Heaven did not have the hardware – nor the privacy – she required for this endeavour. However, the Shera Mark II, Cid’s third airship in nearly as many years, was in town, and had a computer berth that suited her needs perfectly.

“Play again,” she ordered.

Static crackled. “Sorry about that, Vincent. Here’s Cloud.”

A long pause. More static. “Vincent?”

“Cloud. It’s been a while.”

It took some work to unearth the recording. The only reason she had it at all was because they had been monitoring Vincent’s PHS in order to keep track of his location for backup and intelligence. Even then, the Shera had been under attack at the time – Shelke only heard this call after the fact, when she’d backtracked through the records, looking for clues about where Vincent might have disappeared to post-Omega.

“Cid’s airship?” Vincent asked.

“We lost contact about fifteen minutes ago. I don’t think we need to worry though.” There was a grunt, and the clash of swords and rattle of gunfire in the background. Despite the raging battle, Cloud hadn’t even been out of breath. “Those two should be fine.”

“Yeah. And what about you?”

“Pause.” She said. Then, “Rewind. Play.”

“Yeah. And what about you?”

Amusement. “What do you think?”

The harmonics there were interesting. Not so much in Cloud’s response, but Vincent’s question.

The recording rolled on. Tifa’s voice cut in. “Right, you can count on us.”

Barrett yelled something in the background too. Cloud cut back in over him. “And as for you-”

“Don’t worry. Leave Deepground to me.”

It sounded almost as though Cloud was smiling, though Shelke had rarely seen the gesture even in these times of peace. “Huh. Can you hold on a second? Tifa-”

“Got it!” There was a pause – Tifa had been forwarding an old map of the ShinRa building. Shelke skipped past the details, on to the end of the call.

“Good luck!”

“Give ‘em hell, Vincent!”

“Barrett, I thought I told you-”

Then Cloud, cutting in right at the last moment. “Don’t die.”

The line went dead.

Shelke sat back in her chair. “Computer, shut down.” The holograms obediently vanished, and the hum of cooling fans died a moment later.

Cloud had been the first one to look for Vincent after the Omega incident. Had been the one to find him at Lucrecia’s cave. Had been the one to insist she fetch him, instead of going himself.

More to the point, however, was Vincent’s response to Cloud. She recalled the aftermath of Omega, and how AVALANCHE in general had simply assumed that Cloud had the best odds of finding Vincent. And there was Vincent’s concern for Cloud during it – subtle, but unmistakeable. Especially considering that out of the many people in the operation, Cloud Strife was one of the last who needed to be worried about.

She had heard stories, too, of events previous to Deepground, when Cloud himself had been in a self-destructive spiral similar to Vincent. How Vincent had gone searching for him in the Crystal Forest, and later acquired a phone as a result of that meeting.

The solution to her dilemma had been staring her in the face all along.

Now it was just a matter of getting Vincent to see it.

………………….

The perfect opportunity to begin putting her new plan into action came far sooner than Shelke had hoped. Barret had returned from his prospecting trip loaded with money and eager to spoil everybody. And so the entirety of Seventh Heaven had, whether they liked it or not, been packed up and taken to the Gold Saucer for a week away.

Normally this would not have included Vincent – his presence was largely transient, and not even Shelke was precisely aware of where he did live. But Shelke made it a point to ask after him, and as a result Barrett and Tifa together had strong-armed him along.

Normally this would not have included Yuffie, either – the ninja had simply been around, and invited herself.

Cloud, at least, agreed to come along without any fuss.

That part made sense when they rolled up to the Gold Saucer and received a personal greeting from a half-naked moustachioed muscle man dressed in ostentatiously gold and red shorts. “Welcome, welcome! My star of the Battle Arena has returned! Heh heh heh. And of the Chocobo Arena too – the place is not the same without you,” he gushed.

“Dio,” Vincent explained to Shelke in a low tone. “We’ve dealt with him in the past, before Meteor.”

“Cloud’s got a hell of a reputation here,” Yuffie added. “He’s the top of the leaderboards on most of the games in the Speed Square, and top of the odds in the Chocobo Races, and the Battle Square.” She frowned and directed to him, “When the heck do you get up to all that anyway? I thought you were always too busy running deliveries or moping around Midgar.”

“The same way you seem to have time to bother us even though you’re supposed to be the Princess of Wutai,” Tifa answered before Cloud could. “Come on, let’s check into the hotel. It’s been a long day.”

When the time came for their room assignments in the Haunted House Hotel, though, Shelke experienced an emotion she tentatively labelled as elation.

Marlene and Denzel were used to sharing a room, so took one – Barrett and Tifa wound up taking the adjoining one, to act as chaperones. “And you and Yuffie can share, okay, Shelke?” Tifa asked with a smile. “Are you and Vincent okay with bunking together, Cloud?”

Cloud took the key with a shrug. “It’s fine with me.” Vincent inclined his head in agreement.

That earned them a satisfied smile, before Tifa crouched and whispered to her, “I know you might have wanted to share with Cloud, but you’re a little old for it to be appropriate.” Her tone turned conspiratorial. “Maybe you can trick him into a Gondola ride later. You never know!” She paused. “Although I wasn’t kidding about the Honeybee Inn thing, so don’t get your hopes too high, okay?”

She had forgotten - Tifa Lockhart was still labouring under the illusion that she held some sort of doomed crush on Cloud Strife.

Shelke did not disillusion her. Not when it played so perfectly into her plans.

“This is gonna be awesome!” Yuffie cheered.

Shelke agreed.

………………….

Cloud’s first day back in the Gold Saucer was turning out rather… odd.

Of course, any day in the Gold Saucer was bound to be a little unusual. The place encouraged chaos in its design, and if you gathered enough tourists into one place a certain degree of spontaneity tended to happen.

Even so, he’d expected to spend most of the time chaperoning the kids through the various sights – it was both Denzel and Marlene’s first time in the Gold Saucer, after all. But whenever he turned around after a game at the Speed Square, everyone but Vincent would have disappeared, and every time they reunited with the rest of the group the same thing happened again, until the two of them gave up and went and tore a path through the Battle Arena’s new team challenge until dinner.

Then after dinner he found himself at a bar with Yuffie, Vincent, Barret, and Shelke, who somehow had managed to convince the bartender that she really was nineteen instead of the nine she looked, and drinks were flowing, and every time Cloud looked back his glass was full. He was well known among the staff at the Saucer, though, so he didn’t think much of it. Until he noticed that Yuffie and Barret were getting uncomfortably loud and definitely drunk.

“The hell I’ve had enough!” Barret grumbled. “I can’t be drunk! Been matchin’ you and you ain’t even tipsy yet.”

“I’m also mako enhanced,” Cloud said patiently. Vincent deftly shifted a glass away from Barret’s wildly waving gun arm. “You know I can’t get drunk, right?”

Next to him, Shelke made something that almost looked like a facial expression. He eyed her, concerned she might be drunk too, but no – she was also enhanced. Maybe not to the same degree, but Barret would go under the table before she would.

“That’s sooooooo unfair,” Yuffie slurred. “Or maybe sad, I can’t decide. I mean, yeah, the hangovers suck but sometimes you just wanna get smashed, you know? Especially after, after...” She waved a hand vaguely. “You know. Everything.”

Yuffie was a surprisingly maudlin drunk. Gaia, how long had they been at it? He should have been keeping better track. “We should head back anyway. It’s getting late,” he said. “It’s unfair to leave Tifa dealing with the kids alone this long.”

“Tifa!” Barret boomed, standing up and wobbling dangerously in place. His cheeks were ruddy from alcohol and his eyes, glazed. “We gotta go!”

Except somehow, and Cloud still wasn’t sure how, this wound up with everyone on the gondolas. And against all common sense, he and Vincent were in a separate carriage.

“Shouldn’t someone go with them?” Cloud asked in concern, eyeing the gondola ahead. As the tracks curved, he could just barely catch a glimpse of the interior. By the way Yuffie and Barret were rocking back and forth they were either motion sick or engaging in song. In Yuffie’s case, it was possibly both.

“The gondolas have a maximum capacity,” Vincent replied mildly. “And Shelke volunteered.”

“But they hold four,” Cloud said. And while Shelke was nineteen in truth, in practice she’d missed out on a lot, and it resulted in some strange misunderstandings sometimes. She might not have made the best chaperone for a drunk Yuffie and Barret. “You could have gone with them.”

Vincent’s crimson gaze dwelled on him at length. “…Would you really want to ride alone?”

Cloud flinched.

“…I could have gone with them,” he amended, and frowned. “Although I wouldn’t have wanted to force you to ride alone either.”

Vincent folded his arms, turning to watch the view. Giving him room to compose himself. “Would you have wanted to ride this again in that sort of company though?”

He looked down at his knees. “…Am I that easy to see through?”

Vincent said nothing.

Cloud stared out the window, watching the festival of lights roll by. The rollercoaster sped past, patrons throwing their arms in the air. For all the world had changed over the past few years, at the Gold Saucer everyone was still allowed to forget their troubles.

“I’m over it,” Cloud said. “I really am. But reminders are…”

“Unpleasant,” Vincent finished softly. “…I understand.”

They finished the ride in comfortable silence, paying internal homage to fallen comrades. When they disembarked, Shelke fixed them with an analytical stare, then almost seemed to slump.

Odd girl. Cloud didn’t think anything of it. Mostly because that was when Barret accidentally misfired his gun arm into the air and the square broke into a disorganised panic.

………………….

At the end of their second day at the Gold Saucer, Shelke found herself increasingly dissatisfied with her progress.

She sat on her bed in their hotel room, legs hanging over the edge, bare toes brushing the blood red carpet. Outside, simulated lighting and thunder flashed at regular intervals. She didn’t see the logic in this hotel, but like much of the world outside of Deepground, had learned to accept it without comment.

What she didn’t accept was that none of her plans so far had been even slightly successful. Giving them time alone didn’t work. Neither had the alcohol, nor the romantic gondola ride. She had other ideas, all borrowed liberally from popular romance fictions stolen off the Worldwide Network, but the easiest and subtlest ones had yet to yield any effect. And many others were… impractical, when taking Cloud Strife into account. It was difficult to lock someone in a closet when they were fully capable of breaking the lock with their bare hands, after all.

So Shelke had to modify a lot of those typical matchmaking scenarios. And to do that, she required materia. None of which she had ready access to herself – nor the means to acquire them.

Luckily, she happened to be rooming with the ideal person for that.

The door swung open and the young Wutai Princess paraded in, arms laden with bags of souvenirs. “Shelke! So you were still here. Didn’t feel like going shopping with us? Here, you can have one of mine!” Yuffie dug through her spoils and tossed over a small ornament on a chain.

Shelke examined it thoughtfully. It was almost entirely gold, with the odd streak of colour – a miniature, simplified version of the Gold Saucer itself, she realised. “What is the purpose of this?”

“Are you serious? Wait, forget I said that. It’s a keyring,” Yuffie said, voice muffling as she went inside the closet to store her haul. “You put keys on it, or you can hook it onto your PHS if you want. It looks nice and works as a reminder of your trip.”

“…Strange,” she muttered, but carefully stowed it away none-the-less. Then, remembering Tifa’s lessons once again, added, “Thank you.”

Yuffie waved it off. “It’s cool, it’s cool. So what are you doing around here anyway? I was going to head back out to the Speed Square if you wanna come?”

“Actually,” Shelke said. “I have a favour to ask of you.”

That checked the ninja in her path. “Yeah?”

Shelke explained, in brief, what she had planned.

“Vincent andCloud?” Yuffie scratched the back of her neck. “Um, wow. That would actually be pretty hot, I guess. But, y’know, your ideas are kind of a little... extreme."

Shelke tilted her head. “How so?”

“It’s kinda… y’know… well…” Yuffie shrugged. “Ah, heck, why not. It’ll be hilarious. Count me in.”

…………………….

Elsewhere, Cloud jerked as a materia burned against his side. He glanced over his shoulder, searching for an unknown threat.

Nothing but the usual crowd of punters at the chocobo races. “What is it?” Tifa asked. “Did you see something?”

Maybe his Pre-Emptive materia was acting up again. Sometimes the mastered ones got a little trigger-happy. “Just my imagination,” he replied, and turned his attention back to the races.





Next chapter



Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
qem_chibati
Jul. 29th, 2014 10:42 am (UTC)
ahahahahaha. *dying of lols*
qem_chibati
Jul. 29th, 2014 10:44 am (UTC)
I love the nuances in their relationship that your pointing out - the things that they share in common and the fact that they do genuinely have a special bond.


And then there's the match maker fun! :D :D :D Cloud's gonna wish he paid attention to that Pre-emptive materia. XD XD XD
sinnatious
Jul. 29th, 2014 05:04 pm (UTC)
I wonder if horror movies in the FF7 verse start off with people ignoring their pre-emptive materia. (Although I guess the general populace are hardly going to have them).

Glad you're enjoying it so far!
ratzels
Jul. 29th, 2014 01:11 pm (UTC)
No Shelke, what are you doing? Shelke, stahp.

Why do I have the feeling that the best matchmaking Shelke could provide would just be telling Vincent that she just doesn't like him that way, but she thinks Cloud does?

Alternately, they're already dating and just keeping it quiet. Which would be hilarious.
sinnatious
Jul. 29th, 2014 04:56 pm (UTC)
Oh sure, the best way, but hardly the most entertaining way! :D
rafira
Jul. 29th, 2014 03:31 pm (UTC)
ahah this seems cute. can't wait to see :)
sinnatious
Jul. 29th, 2014 04:58 pm (UTC)
LOL at your multi-tasking, weren't you supposed to be doing hunts? XD

This story is total trash but if you keep up with it hope you like it regardless. :)
caterfree10
Jul. 29th, 2014 04:20 pm (UTC)
I have a feeling this icon's going to get a lot of use while reading this fic
I fuckin' cackled at the Pre-Emptive materia flaring up. I keep on forgetting how much I love gameplay/story integration and then you go and remind me. <3

I also may or may not have gone "OH LAWD" when Yuffie agreed to help Shelke. This is going to be a very interesting team up and I might consider grabbing popcorn when I get the email for the next chapter. :>
sinnatious
Jul. 29th, 2014 05:01 pm (UTC)
Re: I have a feeling this icon's going to get a lot of use while reading this fic
I live to serve!

Yuffie is fun to write. I didn't even consciously include her, she just kind of wrote herself in. XD
(Deleted comment)
sinnatious
Jul. 30th, 2014 03:25 am (UTC)
Well, they are! Can you imagine a blanket scenario, for example? Strand them in Modeoheim, one blanket... "It's okay, you keep it, I'll just do some squats to keep warm."

Kind of applies to Vincent too, really.
(Deleted comment)
mauralucky7
Jul. 30th, 2014 04:18 am (UTC)
My thoughts while reading:

Shelke, Shelke what are you doing. Romance novel ideas aren't going to work. Subtle doesn't work with these two. Did you not see what happened in Beloved!

...

Actuallly no you didn't but Cloud needs to be hit over the head with romance before he realizes it. And Vincent has Lucrecia issues and still has trouble with relationships.

Oh no Yuffie. Dear god Yuffie's getting involved... this actually might work now. Well not really but It'll work better. Maybe...

Pre-emptive Materia! RUn Cloud! Listen to your materia.



Good chapter!
sinnatious
Jul. 30th, 2014 04:34 am (UTC)
Treat my fanfic universes as separate, dammit! XD

Aha like your stream of consciousness there. Thanks for commenting! :D
mauralucky7
Jul. 30th, 2014 04:38 am (UTC)
They are indeed very separate universes... at least until we force you to write crossover for Christmas prompts.

Honestly though, I blame my stream of conciousness for thinking that because I just reread Beloved yesterday.
lenine2
Jul. 30th, 2014 05:12 am (UTC)
If anyone can make Shelke into a funny, endearing character, it would be you.
sinnatious
Jul. 30th, 2014 06:13 am (UTC)
Heh, thank you for the vote of confidence!
fezastwin
Jul. 31st, 2014 02:38 pm (UTC)
The whole idea of Vincent/Shelke with Lucrecia memories always struck me as a bit... icky. Probably because Shelke looks like a nine year old, even if she isn't.

Then whole idea of Vincent being so far gone in his devotion to Lucrecia he'd latch on to Shelke with Lucrecia's memories even if she ever looked full grown struck me as pathetic and ... icky.

Even if he came to appreciate Shelke as a person in her own right, the Lucrecia memories she holds still would have been the catalyst for their being together, which still strikes me as pathetic and ... icky!

Even though this is a bit of crack-fic, and not a Vincent/Shelke piece at all, I'm not sure if I'm over my ... icky-ness. Just them together not a couple still leaves the icky for me.

But now that you thrown in Yuffie, who no doubt will add a whole new level of awesome insanity to an already crazy matchmaking plan, I shall trust your fabulous plotting skills!

Let the shenanigans commence! :)
sinnatious
Jul. 31st, 2014 04:46 pm (UTC)
It really was suuuuuuuper awkward, wasn't it? But then it's not like Lucrecia or Vincent's relationship is at all an example of health either, and Dirge of Cerebus only made it worse. Once you start thinking about it all, it's kind of... really? There are so many different levels of messed up you don't even know where to begin. Lucrecia and Vincent's father? And then Lucrecia and Hojo? I mean, she married the guy! Vincent was kind of pathetic stalker when you think about it and Lucrecia had all sorts of issues too. The whole thing is super weird. And yeah, the whole Shelke thing too. I get that ickiness. I kind of wanted to do a little development of Shelke as a character rather than a 'Lucrecia-reincarnated' thing because that was a little discomfiting, especially with how Square kind of set her up as a sort of replacement there. But at the same time, I don't feel like I can sweep that entirely under the rug because Square was pretty heavily implying a lot of that.

Woop, tl;dr you're right, it's super icky.

Thank you for the trust, I hope I won't let you down!
avianahelena
Aug. 19th, 2014 07:39 am (UTC)
Cloud...sweetie...it is NEVER just your imagination. NEVER.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 27th, 2016 03:44 am (UTC)
With Yuffie in, now I'm convinced they are going to bumble into somehow making this plan work.

Also: omg now the CAPTCHA "are you a human" test is assembling a little jigsaw puzzle why is that so cute c:
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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