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Optimal Scenario, File 6.0

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: Sorry for the delay, but here at last is the penultimate chapter. Kind of short actually... the last chapter will be longer to make up for it. Hopefully nothing interferes with posting that so we can at least finish off somewhat on schedule. Maybe I'll get paranoid and post early. Hope you enjoy it!


File 1.0
File 2.0
File 3.0
File 4.0
File 5.0



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

File 6.0

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


“So Vincent was glaring daggers at me the other night,” Reno said conversationally. “You were really onto something there, Princess.”

Shelke stared pensively into her glass – a light, fruity beverage with barely any alcohol, the only drink Tifa would allow her, an odd sort of compromise between her apparent age and her actual one.

“Course, doesn’t seem to have worked,” Reno added. “Cloud’s been here the past few nights, but no sign of Vincent hanging around, guarding his virtue.”

“There were complications,” Shelke admitted distantly. “But our deal remains valid.”

Reno and Rude exchanged a glance, but Reno simply shrugged. He clapped her on the shoulder as he stood up. “Good luck with it, and let us know how it goes, huh?” He shook his head in wonder. “That’d be a hell of thing. Vincent and Cloud. Ifrit, can you imagine if they had a lover’s spat? It’d be the end of the world. Literally.”

Absorbed in her thoughts as she was, Shelke was still quick to rise to Vincent’s defence. “Chaos has not been an issue since the Deepground uprising. There is no further question of his control.”

“Just a joke, princess, lighten up. Anyway, we gotta go, boss is callin’, catch you around.” Reno flipped a hand in a farewell and the two Turks left Seventh Heaven behind.

Shelke sank back in her seat. The evening crowd began to trickle in, one at a time, but it was far from busy yet so she went unnoticed and unbothered in the corner. Marlene and Denzel were still drawing on one of the other tables, cheerfully oblivious to her internal crisis.

The confrontation had ruined everything. Vincent had even started actively avoiding Cloud, presumably to avoid giving Shelke any more opportunities to push them together.

Her plans lay in tatters, and she was running out of ideas.

Cloud came thumping down the stairs – in a rare stroke of luck, mere moments before Vincent strode through the front door. Shelke saw him pause for half a step, but he was, in many ways, still Turk enough to cover it. Avoiding entering the room was too obvious – he played it neutral, nodding to Cloud and Tifa in greeting.

“Vincent,” Cloud replied. “Everything okay at the WRO? You’ve been gone a lot.”

“Nothing serious,” was the bland reply. “I’m just helping Reeve out while I’m in the area.”

“Okay kids, time to take this upstairs,” Tifa said, heading over to Marlene and Denzel’s unofficial table.

Marlene pouted. “But Vincent just got back! Do we have to?”

“You’ve spent plenty of time with Vincent the past few days,” Tifa said with a smile. “C’mon, you have school tomorrow and need to get up early.”

Both children groaned at that. “Do we have to go to school?” Denzel asked. “I’m too old for it already. You and Cloud weren’t going at my age!”

"That’s because Nibelheim didn't have a school," Tifa said. "We had lessons twice a week at the inn. That's why I'm running a bar and Cloud's running a delivery business."

"Speak for yourself," Cloud muttered.

Tifa pouted at him. "You cheated. You've got half the Lifestream poking around in your brain."

It said a lot about how far they'd come that they could joke about it.

“What about you, Vincent?” Marlene asked, tugging on his red cloak curiously.

"I had private tutors," he replied. "Then ShinRa provided the rest of my education."

“What about Shelke?” Denzel tried next.

Shelke abandoned any pretence at not being involved in the conversation, leaving her corner to join the others. At her stare, Denzel flushed.

Tifa answered before she could. “Shelke is nineteen, and spent her school years net-diving, which before you ask is not an option for you. Cloud, could you-?” She gestured.

Cloud nodded, holding out his hand for Marlene. Marlene made a face, but it lasted only an instant – Cloud’s undivided attention was worth it for both of them to cooperate.

“Sorry Shelke,” Tifa said as they disappeared upstairs. “Denzel wasn’t picking on you, they just prefer spending time here.”

“Why do they dislike it so much?” Shelke asked, mystified. It had been a growing trend, but when she first started staying at Seventh Heaven they had been excited to go to school.

“They don’t, really,” Tifa admitted to her. “Denzel’s just in a rush to grow up, and Marlene’s started taking her cues from Denzel. It’s only recently that some of the schools have reopened, and back before we met you, he was applying to work at the WRO. His idea of helping out, I think. Luckily Reeve caught wind of it and applied a minimum age.” She shook her head, as though to chase the memory away. She started wiping down the table Marlene and Denzel had been using. “What about you Vincent? Are you going to be sticking around tonight?”

“I actually came to let you know I’ll be leaving for a while.”

Shelke’s stomach plummeted.

“So soon?” Tifa asked.

Vincent didn’t even bother explaining. His silence seemed to be explanation enough, for AVALANCHE.

“When are you planning on coming back?” she asked. Her gaze flitted to Shelke, and then to Vincent, in what seemed to be silent reproach.

“I’m not sure. But I’ll still be in the area for a while,” he conceded. “You can contact me by phone.”

“Will you actually answer it, though?” she asked, amused, then sighed, dropping the dishrag on the tabletop. “Cloud will be disappointed. He might not be obvious about it, but he enjoys having you around. Say goodbye before you leave, won’t you? To the kids, too.” She sent another pointed glance at Shelke, which Vincent diplomatically ignored.

“I will,” he promised, and disappeared upstairs, presumably to do just that.

Tifa looked like she wanted to talk to her, but customers were demanding her attention, so while she was otherwise occupied, Shelke slipped outside.

She caught Vincent on his way out the door. He no doubt knew she was waiting there, as he lingered on the landing, halfway between the warm light of the bar and the cool embrace of dusk.

“You do not need to leave on my account,” Shelke said.

“I don’t normally stay this long. You know that.” Vincent’s words were as deep and dark as the shadows stretching across the street, threatening to swallow them whole.

“And why is that?” Shelke prodded. “Where will you go? Back to her cave again?”

Vincent didn’t reply, and Shelke wondered if she had pushed too far. She had known of Vincent’s issues, but the evidence had suggested that they no longer ran so deep – that time had made her plans viable. That they were more habit than anything, and thus able to be broken.

The spell had been cast, though. She couldn’t call it back to the materia, no matter how hard she wished it.

“Take care,” Vincent said. “I’ll still be in contact if you need me.”

Then he was gone, nothing more than a flutter of red fabric in the shadows.

Shelke stood outside for several minutes, watching the dusk fade to twilight. People were so difficult sometimes.

She refused to give up, however. This was a setback – a serious one – but it highlighted how important it was that she succeeded.

She still had Cloud’s Ribbon, after all, and a selection of materia generously on loan from Yuffie.

It had seemed too extreme a scenario before, far too risky in execution. But Shelke had no other options left.

If Vincent refused to spend time with Cloud, she would simply be forced to create a situation where he had no choice.


…………………..


The wind raked through Cloud’s hair, leaving his face faintly stinging from the force of it as he pushed the acceleration even higher. The wastes blurred past, Fenrir leaving a rising cloud of dust in his wake.

It had been a routine early-morning delivery – he might even have time for another short run that afternoon. The sun blazed high in the sky, hot against his skin, baking the bare earth dry. Waves of heat rose from the dirt road.

Shapes began to form in the mirage - a van that looked an awful lot like the one Tifa used whenever he and Barret were out of town. And standing next to it…

Was that Shelke?

He hit the brakes, pulling to a gradual stop. What was she doing all the way out here? It wasn’t that dangerous along any of the roads through the Wastes – there simply wasn’t the flora or fauna in the local food chain to support any particularly vicious predators – but it wasn’t the sort of area you travelled without a weapon, either. Although it did look like she had some materia and her batons, so that was mildly reassuring.

He drew to a stop near the van and killed the engine. “Shelke. Something the matter?” He fished in his pockets for his phone. Had he missed a call?

“My apologies, Cloud Strife,” Shelke said, “But I can no longer think of anything else that will work.”

“What are you-?”

The whining rise of materia was all the warning he received.


……………………...


Vincent’s phone trilled with a new message.

He contemplated ignoring it – it was most likely Yuffie, harassing him once again now that he was out of Seventh Heaven’s sphere of influence. But he had, against his better judgement, promised Tifa he would be in contact. It was only fair given that they had taken responsibility for Shelke in his place.

The number, unexpectedly, was Cloud’s.

The message was short and simple. Coordinates to a cave system nearby, part of the same mountain range ringing Kalm. It wasn’t a place AVALANCHE had ever bothered with before – it was far from any human settlements, and the monsters there were more trouble than they were worth. Not even ShinRa had ever given them more than a cursory exploration – there were no veins of mythril or mako springs or materia to plunder.

Beyond that, the message offered nothing. No reason. No requests.

Cloud could be taciturn sometimes, but he wasn’t in the habit of being deliberately mysterious. Which only left…

“Shelke,” he murmured. “What have you done?”


…………………..


Shelke carefully set the phone on Fenrir’s seat.

Everything was in place now. There was a small chance that the materias’ effects wouldn’t last until Vincent’s arrival and that Cloud Strife would, in effect, rescue himself before Vincent could, but Shelke had confidence in the gunman. He would not risk a comrade to stubbornness. He would especially not risk Cloud.

Going by Yuffie’s example, it would be best to make herself scarce at this point. She activated the Chocobo Lure she’d brought along for this very occasion – that would bring her back to the truck, and with that she could return to Edge. She started walking, regardless – less chance of encountering Vincent that way.

The shrubs and trees lining the dirt path still fascinated her after so many years in Deepground. She watched them carefully, only long-learned discipline keeping her alert for the slightest hint of crimson in the foliage. Her ears caught a distant ‘wark’ – the crow of a chocobo’s curiosity, brought by her Lure.

She waited patiently as the bird came crashing through the undergrowth, hesitating when it saw her, but just as quickly nosing its beak under her arms, head-butting her thighs, searching for whatever had caught its attention. Its feathers were still soft and downy under her hands – it was just an adolescent yellow. More than enough to get her back to the truck, though.

There were few pleasures in her life as satisfying as a plan running smoothly.

“Best of luck, Vincent Valentine,” she said to the sky, and with the awkward air of inexperience, mounted the young chocobo’s back.

Neither of them could ignore the issue in the wake of a rescue mission. Shelke’s work here was done. Now it was up to Vincent to arrive, find Cloud, and in his worry, be forced to admit his feelings.

Of course, Cloud Strife would, naturally, be fine.

...Right?






Next chapter




Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
sinnatious
Aug. 27th, 2014 04:08 pm (UTC)
I know right? I don't have a reputation for suddenly tragic endings at all.
eve_tenshi
Aug. 27th, 2014 03:38 pm (UTC)
Aww, as much as I want to see them get together, I don't really want Cloud to be in any kind of serious danger in order to instigate it...not to mention Shelke would be in sooo much trouble :( Hurry, Vincent!

(But really Cloud, why haven't you just borrowed a ribbon from someone else yet, not having a ribbon seems to have been screwing you over a lot as of late ._.)
sinnatious
Aug. 27th, 2014 04:08 pm (UTC)
It's true, I should just retitle this fic 'Things That Happen When Cloud Misplaces Ribbon'.
caterfree10
Aug. 27th, 2014 10:27 pm (UTC)
*SNORT* I might've cackled at the realization of Shelke's plan. Then again, clueless men call for desperate measures, y/y?

Oh dear at that last line tho. Like tsuyuhime said tho, at least the promised lightness of the fic promises it won't turn into a disaster. which can't be said for some of your other fics heh //brick'd

Also, mmmm in-verse metaphors and turns of phrases, always a delight! 'S a shame more fandoms don't do that more widespread outside the homestuck fandom. :V
sinnatious
Aug. 28th, 2014 02:34 am (UTC)
I'm sure other fandoms do it! It's probably just more obvious in these fandoms because there's a fantastical element to them.

Yeah, plus there's only one more chapter so you know I can't drag it out. :3 ...Or can I?

Just kidding I can't this is really a totally brain dead fic so you don't need to worry.
ratzels
Aug. 28th, 2014 03:13 am (UTC)
*facepalm* Shelke, you idiot.

Then again, this could be an excellent way to cure Vincent of his crush! ...Although Lucretia marrying a creepy sleezeball and authorizing experimentation on her unborn child didn't do it, either. Hmm.
sinnatious
Aug. 28th, 2014 05:30 am (UTC)
Vincent has some serious blinkers, really. Lucrecia gets painted as somewhat saintly but really the only thing that makes her better than Hojo is that she regretted it. (And maybe didn't actively shoot people. So two things.) Are we sure it's not some kind of lingering Stockholm Syndrome from his time in the tubes?

I almost feel like I need to write a more serious standalone fic exploring this sometime.
gelfling8604
Aug. 28th, 2014 04:38 pm (UTC)
As much as I feel bad for Cloud, I kinda think he's use to things like this happening to him by now--definitely rolls with the punches.

Love your Reno, he really has no issues with...much of anything, really.
sinnatious
Aug. 29th, 2014 04:47 am (UTC)
I imagine it probably takes quite a lot to faze AVALANCHE in general these days. After you've made friends with a dolphin in order to sneak into Junon or hijacked a rocket into space or been double-crossed by a robot cat...
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )