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Optimal Scenario, File 7.0

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: Final chapter! This was a totally dumb, super simple and shallow story, but I hope you enjoyed it regardless. I'm glad to have it out of my brain, making room for other WIPs. Thanks for reading~

File 1.0
File 2.0
File 3.0
File 4.0
File 5.0
File 6.0


File 7.0


Consciousness came in a blur, the smear of reality washing into unsteady focus before his eyes.

Cloud lurched to the side, reeling from a strike he couldn’t place. His head swam, struggling to reorient even as another blow crashed against his knees. Something glass bounced away, ringing as it rolled against the rocky floor.

He hit the ground, spinning to what he hoped was out of range. It bought him a precious few seconds to regroup.

Had he been asleep? Confused? Maybe both. It was dim, difficult to see, his eyes still struggling to adjust. A cave? A shadow shifted to his right, accompanied by a wet, gritty slither and an echoing, guttural growl.

He recognised the putrid odour a second too late – he was already gagging on it, eyes watering and throat burning.


No time, he had to act fast. He lurched towards the shadow and swung blind. His fist smashed into something wet and fleshy. Sharp, bright lines of pain scraped against his knuckles. He’d got it in the mouth.

The growl turned into a grunt, and flailing tentacles slapped welts against his legs. Cloud swung again, and again, throwing all of his mako-enhanced strength into each wild blow. The growl became a squeal, and at last the slithering mass went still.

His breath rasped in his throat, harsh and scratchy and acidic. He shuffled awkwardly, arm held out, until his aching fingers caught the rough, stony surface of the cave wall.

Shelke?” He strained to call, but his voice remained trapped. Silence. Darkness, too, at a guess. Even the vague shadows he’d caught before had been replaced by steady, unfaltering blackness.

Nausea gripped his stomach, and his limbs felt leaden and heavy. His hands stung, slick with blood, gloves in tatters. He tossed them away and grasped at his arm. Still bare. His Ribbon-

He’d never found it. It had been Yuffie’s work, almost certainly – that became clear in the Gold Saucer – and thief or not he’d expected she would return it eventually, most likely it appearing on his bedroll or tied to Fenrir’s handlebars or around his PHS or something obvious like that, so he hadn’t worried about it. His deliveries rarely took him anywhere it was a concern, so it could wait.

Apparently he’d been wrong about that.

He fumbled for his phone – though what he could hope to do with it when unable to see or speak-

It didn’t matter anyway. He couldn’t find it. Dropped on the cave floor? It was a lost cause.

Could he risk waiting it out, until at least Darkness wore off?

He stumbled forward blindly, ears straining for the skitter of claws or the slither of scales. He kept one hand on the wall at all times. It wasn’t the most efficient way, but following the wall would lead him outside eventually.

After all, if there were one malboro, there were almost certainly others.


Fenrir sat outside the cave entrance. Cloud’s phone rested on its seat.

The tracks in the dirt led a telling story – one set of small footsteps away, scuff marks leading into the caves. Not that old – a matter of hours at the most, given the current weather conditions. Most likely less.

The setup was glaringly obvious. Vincent very nearly turned on his heel then and there. To give in would only encourage Shelke further.

Yet… as obvious as it was, it was perfectly done in its sheer simplicity. Vincent couldn’t walk away.

So he ventured inside.

The caves themselves were nothing remarkable – there were the usual signs of wildlife, and a handful of razorweed lurking near the entrance which he ignored. The caves themselves were nothing more than grey mudrock, though their ragged texture suggested they had at some point been burrowed rather than eroding naturally. Ark dragons, perhaps? They were common enough in this part of the East Continent.

Moving with more urgency now, Vincent made his way deeper into the caverns. The shadows grew swiftly darker and longer, the air cooling and growing damp the further he went. It wasn’t long before a foul odour caught his attention. He diverted, searching for the cause.

Whatever it was, it had already dissolved into the Lifestream, leaving only an unpleasant residue on the ground and spattered green blood. A chlorophyll-based monster, like a capparwire, or something mutated by mako? The stench was oddly familiar, but difficult to place.

A glint of light nearby caught his eye. It came from a small yellow orb, glowing faintly on the rocky floor. Vincent picked it up carefully with his gauntlet. Enemy Away materia.

Shelke had taken precautions at least. Enemy Away was far from absolute though, even when mastered. And that it was here, and not with Cloud…

That wasn’t promising.

Tucking the materia into his pocket, he surveyed his surroundings more carefully. He flicked on his phone, raising it to provide more light. Some scraps of leather on the ground. On the rocky wall, a smear of blood. Then another, further ahead. Still wet. Leading deeper into the caves.

This time, Vincent set out at a run.

He passed another patch of foul slime on the way, motes of Lifestream still lingering in the air. A distant roar echoed through the cavern. Close.

Vincent followed the sound, cloak flaring as he dashed around the corner.

There they were. Cloud, standing awkwardly to the side of an Ark Dragon, fists raised. The dragon’s fangs bared, all four wings flared as it moved to attack.

Vincent snapped out Death Penalty. In three short sharp shots, the ark dragon crumpled to the ground.

Cloud recoiled, head swinging in his direction. He mouthed something, but no words came out.

His complexion was ghostly, faintly green, and his hands streaked with blood. His eyes were covered in a black film, smothering their glow, and though his chest heaved, his breath made no noise.

Darkness, Silence, and almost certainly Poison. Possibly Slow as well, given the usual speed of his reflexes. The others may have been Shelke, but she would never have cast Poison.

“It’s me,” Vincent said. “Don’t move.” He approached carefully, being sure to make his steps pronounced so Cloud could hear him coming. The last thing he needed was a panicked SOLDIER’s elbow in his face, and a likely Galian rampage as a result. Once in reach, he caught Cloud’s arm with his gloved hand, casting a critical eye over the damage. Some nasty scratches, but largely superficial.

Cloud mouthed something that looked like a question. “I left my remedies back at Seventh Heaven,” Vincent replied. He himself had a Ribbon, so there had been no need for them on the road. He did, at least, have a stash of echo herbs – found and harvested in the wild the day before, to sell in the next town he came across. He fished them out. “I have something that will help, though.”

He moved to hand Cloud the herbs, but rethought it given the blood. “Open your mouth.”

There was no time to dwell on the awkwardness – but Vincent hesitated a fraction of a second just the same, thoughts flitting to inappropriate places when Cloud closed his eyes and did as asked. He pushed them aside, carefully placing the herbs on Cloud’s bottom lip.

Like remedy, the effects were fast. Cloud swallowed, and then in a voice far more hoarse than usual said, “Thanks. Anything else?”

“Just the echo herbs.”

“Guess I’ll have to wait for it to wear off the hard way then. Good thing you came along.”

“I’m sorry,” Vincent said. “This is Shelke’s doing. She’s been trying to drive you and I together for a while now.”

“I kind of guessed,” Cloud muttered. “You know, back when I woke up in the Haunted House Hotel dressed in drag and tied up with a bow. Although I didn’t suspect it was Shelke’s doing until just today.”

“…That was a little obvious,” Vincent agreed. “It was a misguided attempt to help. She means well. But she’s only just rediscovering how to handle her own emotions, and doesn’t exactly understand how they work in other people yet. She hasn’t quite grasped that you can’t just order or logic emotions into being by following a set scenario.”

“Not sure about that. I’m starting to think she knows what she’s doing.” Despite the darkness, the humour was audible in Cloud’s voice. “I’m just glad she didn’t take my clothes this time.”

“I’m surprised she caught you at all.”

“I was slack. Didn’t recognise it as a threat until it was too late. Too used to charging through materia instead of dodging it.” Cloud leaned against him. Now that he was no longer silenced, the labour in his breathing was obvious.

Vincent took him gently by the arm and started leading him back the way they came. “What happened in here?”

“Not sure. Came to, was being attacked by a malboro. Pretty sure I killed it. Ran into another one as I was trying to find my way out.”

The residue he’d found earlier. That explained it. “There are malboros in here?” They preferred caves, but were usually only found in colder climes.

“Local variety, I think,” Cloud rasped. “Breath seems to be worse but they’re smaller. I was aiming for the body but think I hit it in the mouth.”

It could have been so much worse. The poisoning alone would have been dangerous for civilian – for Cloud it was merely an unpleasant inconvenience. That and the fact that a blind, slow, bare-knuckled hit from the swordsman was still enough to seriously damage concrete.

The Enemy Away materia bought them some peace – they made it through two caverns unbothered. When they entered the third, a shadow loomed in front of them, all foul breath and flailing tentacles.

Two gunshots echoed like thunder through the cave. The malboro slumped to the ground before it even came close.

Cloud tensed at the sound, shifting into a defensive stance. “Just another malboro,” Vincent explained. “Nothing to worry about.”

“Right.” They continued on. “I think,” Cloud rasped, “For the good of my health, that we should make out. Somewhere Shelke can see.”

Vincent didn’t exactly stumble, but there was a distinct pause in his stride. How could he respond to that?

He didn’t know, so he said nothing.

After a beat, Cloud offered, “Sorry. I thought maybe-”

“It’s not that,” Vincent corrected.

Cloud waited, but when Vincent didn’t elaborate, he murmured, “Still Lucrecia, then?”

Vincent nearly didn’t answer that, either. But with Cloud, there could be no lies – he trusted Vincent with his truths wholesale, no matter how shameful. He would speak plainly of his sins and loss – and was maybe the only one who could begin to understand. Thus it was only fair that Vincent trusted him in turn, regardless of the complications it presented.

“Not exactly,” Vincent said. “After Deepground… many of my questions were answered. But perhaps… the answer wasn’t the one I was seeking.”

They walked into the next cavern. It was lighter than the last. They were nearly outside. Cloud didn’t say anything, waiting for him to finish. His footsteps seemed loud against the rock. Vincent’s barely made a whisper.

“The answer I wanted isn’t one that exists. But more to the point… it never existed. That was my failing. But maintaining the status quo seemed… safer, than acknowledging that. Than risking making those mistakes again.”

They emerged outside at last, into warm, clean, dry air. The faint breeze lifted his cloak so that it swirled around his ankles. Cloud’s breathing evened with it, clearing the malboro’s toxins from his lungs.

When he finally spoke, his voice was smoother, almost back to its normal texture. “You know, failure doesn’t matter as much as what you do afterwards.”

The weight of Black materia lingered behind his words. The millstone of Aerith, and Zack Fair, so heavy Vincent could almost see them, as vivid as the Geostigma had once been against pale skin. “…Are you the proof of that?”

“It had to be beaten into my head a bit first,” Cloud admitted. “But I think you’re smarter than I was.” He ran his hand down Vincent’s arm, tangling their fingers together. “I think we’ve danced around each other long enough, right?”

His words were sure, but his nerves came through in the strength of his grip. Sometimes it could be difficult with Cloud to tell the difference between true confidence and the mere act of it. But perhaps… the act was enough. What started as a façade eventually became true with experience.

“…Maybe it is about time to try,” Vincent conceded.

Cloud slanted him a smile. His eyes were still blackened with Darkness, and his skin still pale and sickly from the lingering poison, but Vincent’s throat tightened at the sight all the same.

Maybe it was time to try, indeed.


They returned to Edge on Fenrir. Without any remedies or eye drops, Vincent had to drive. Cloud could be precious about his bike, but didn’t seem to mind this once. Somewhere along the ride, with the wind whisking Vincent’s cape around them and Cloud’s arms like bands of mythril around his chest, Darkness wore off and the last of the poison worked his way out of his system.

Seventh Heaven was baked orange in the late afternoon sun – Edge itself was stuck between the midday and evening rushes, so the street was quiet. At the sound of Fenrir’s engine, both Shelke and Tifa came outside to greet them.

They’d barely extricated themselves from the bike when Cloud said, “I wasn’t kidding earlier,” and that was all the warning Vincent received before the swordsman pulled him down and pressed their lips together.

It had been… a very long time for any such contact for Vincent. His thoughts stuttered to an uncharacteristic halt – even the endless, background rumble of his inner beasts quietened.

“Oh, um.” Some distant part of him not preoccupied with Cloud’s arms winding around his neck or his tongue in his mouth registered Tifa’s voice, caught in a tone somewhere between pleased and shocked. “Ah, I thought that might happen with Cloud but Vincent was a surprise. Sorry Shelke, I hope you’re not too disappointed.”

“On the contrary, Tifa Lockhart,” Shelke responded serenely, “I could not be happier.”


Cloud sought her out later, when Shelke had retired to her room and the rest of the Seventh Heaven were busy downstairs. The background noise of the bar had been dulled, forming a low, constant murmur of conversation interspersed with clinking glasses and the rattle of gil in the register.

“Cloud Strife,” she greeted as he shut the door behind himself. “I believe I may owe you an apology. Vincent informed me of what transpired. It was not my intention to place you in genuine peril.”

Cloud waved it off. “If you’re not experienced with Enemy Away materia, it’s an easy mistake to make. And it worked out.”

It worked out fabulously, in fact. Shelke was immensely satisfied.

She was, however, aware that conveying that satisfaction under the circumstances might be frowned upon. Illogical, perhaps, given that both parties were now acutely conscious of her intentions, but it was one of the many nuances of social interaction that Shelke was re-learning to navigate.

Even with that thought, though, she found herself not quite able to suppress the small smile stretching across her lips.

“Regardless, I hope that I did not impose too much on you,” she offered. Vincent’s comment about Cloud’s role in her scenario had remained in the back of her mind. It was reassuring that she had not been incorrect in her assessment, but the concern had been marginally present for a time.

Cloud shrugged. “I was never against the idea. I’d actually thought about it once or twice, after Tifa and I sorted out where we stood, but Vincent had never seemed interested. Until, you know-” He gestured vaguely at Shelke. “Then I realised he might be, and that changed things.”

“We both care for Vincent, and want what is best for him,” Shelke agreed. “I would not have embarked on his venture if I were not confident that his feelings could turn in that direction.”

Cloud just seemed amused at that. “You’re not quite on the mark, but you’re not quite wrong, either. Where did you even get some of those ideas?”

“Mostly the World Wide Network,” Shelke stated.

“Of course. And how did you get Reno to go along with it?”

“A synaptic net dive as payment. I do however believe that he thought it was be ‘hilarious’,” Shelke quoted.

Cloud nodded again, seeming unsurprised. “You have something of mine too, I hope.”

Shelke handed over the Ribbon and Pre-Emptive materia – the guilt this time was very nearly physical, no matter what logical justifications she applied to it. Curious. “You are being quite generous, Cloud Strife,” she ventured. “I both expected and prepared myself to weather retribution for my role in this, given your reaction to Yuffie Kisaragi’s assistance.”

“Oh don’t worry. I’m still going to kill Yuffie,” he said matter-of-factly as he swiftly tied the ribbon around his bicep. “You get a pass because of good intentions this time.”

Shelke found herself obligated to defend her primary partner in crime. “Yuffie’s intentions were also good.”

“Yuffie’s intentions are never good. But anyway, I just wanted to let you know that we’ll be fine,” Cloud said, standing and stretching. “You did your part. Let me worry about Vincent from now on. Please.” He stressed the word.

Shelke inclined her head in mute agreement. It was all the assurance she needed. Cloud Strife may not have been much better at dealing with people than she was, but that very fact made him uniquely qualified to deal with any of Vincent’s lingering insecurities.

His piece said, and materia and Ribbon reclaimed, Cloud excused himself. Once he was gone, Shelke turned to her phone, dialling with careful deliberation.

“Yuffie Kisaragi,” she greeted. “I believe it is time to ‘tell you everything’.”

Thank you for reading!


( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2014 04:24 pm (UTC)
Sep. 2nd, 2014 11:00 pm (UTC)
Aww, what a fluffy ending to this crack-filled ride :D Thanks for the great writing as always!

I've been meaning to ask for a while now, and I'm pretty sure you've probably already heard of it, but have you read esama's Off the Line? It's still WIP, but it's also wonderfully crack-y and one of the first Vincent/Cloud fics I came across after being introduced to the ship via Optimal Scenario :)
Sep. 3rd, 2014 03:16 am (UTC)
Yeah, I've been reading it, people mention it every chapter. XD (It is a great fic)

Thanks for reading!
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 3rd, 2014 03:17 am (UTC)
You're welcome, glad you enjoyed it~
Sep. 3rd, 2014 02:29 am (UTC)
Darkness, silence, slow, confuse! Poor Cloud, haha. And the Enemy Away thing was genius.

Love how Cloud manages to throw Vincent for a loop with him make-out suggestion. Of course he's had enough. :P I can't imagine what Shelke's next move would've been if this hadn't worked out. Somehow resurrect Sephiroth one last time? Haha.

Looking forward to your next work!

(by the by, was thinking of doing some travelling in February, and Australia is one of my potential locations - any advice?)
Sep. 3rd, 2014 03:43 am (UTC)
Cloud's life is much too hard. <3 Thank you for reading as always!

Oooh, potential travel! Australia's not particularly cheap for travel, but it all depends on what you want to see and do. If you like cities, Melbourne is worth a few days just for the food and culture (although that time of year is likely to be punishingly hot there), Sydney is pretty cool too but I personally would only give it maybe two or three days which is more than enough to see the biggest sights.

If you come you definitely need to visit some beaches, probably ones further down south because up north will be jellyfish season and you can't really go swimming without a stinger suit. If you go to Queensland, Gold Coast has a lot of theme parks but is a bit of a tourist trap, Sunshine Coast probably has slightly nicer beaches but less in the way of public transport. Australia Zoo is in that area and is definitely a world-class zoo, if you like zoos. Again a bit pricey though, but most of the money goes into conservation efforts.

The Great Barrier Reef is definitely worth seeing, and the beaches around there are incredible too. If you go way way up north the Daintree rainforest is really nice. In the south not far from Sydney the Blue Mountains are also really beautiful.

Lots of people like to go see Uluru (the big red rock in the centre) but it's not really worth it unless you have time and money to burn. An expensive flight is really your only option and it's pretty much the only attraction out there. Flights between the capitals are quite cheap though, look into Virgin or Jetstar (Tigerair is usually cheapest but best avoided as they have a poor track record).

Where else are you considering? You'll definitely have to post all about it wherever you go~ :)

(no subject) - firedraygon97 - Sep. 6th, 2014 07:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 3rd, 2014 05:16 am (UTC)
HEE, such a satisfying conclusion to a cute fic. x3 ngl, this is flaring up a craving for this pairing and I might be raiding AO3 soon, oops. as if my fic reading queue needed more entrants lol |D;

I'm p sure my fave part of this chapter is the heart to heart between Vincent and Cloud. I foresee many of those in their future too. uvu

Also, how the hell do you always manage to come up with A+ last lines? I can't even do that for drabbles!
Sep. 3rd, 2014 06:03 am (UTC)
Fic benders are awesome, I wish you great reading. :)

Well I can't even do drabbles so you have one over me there. Haha I usually think my last lines are terrible, the thought process is 'oh god that is way too cheesy, really?' but then go 'I don't care, I just want to post it and be finished already'. XD
Sep. 3rd, 2014 06:03 am (UTC)
Cloud, you are my hero. Straight to the making out!
And he's actually kind of perfect for Vincent, with all his experience in angst and woe. For all Cloud's trouble dealing with his own BS, I'm sure he can cut through Vincent's somewhat easily.

This was adorable. Thank you for writing. <3
Sep. 3rd, 2014 06:07 am (UTC)
Cloud's earned his makeout session, dammit. :P

Thank you for reading!
Sep. 3rd, 2014 06:20 am (UTC)
I'm so happy to be able to find a really good Vincent/Cloud story with a happy ending and without the angst!! Thank you so much ;)
Sep. 5th, 2014 06:25 am (UTC)
You're very welcome, thank you for reading!
Sep. 3rd, 2014 05:02 pm (UTC)
De-lurking to say that I enjoyed this. It's nice to read some light-hearted fluff in this fandom, and this was well-written for all that it was romcommish. :)

I love your voice work. It's something that's always stood out to me in your writing, alongside the easy flow of your prose and overall characterization. Thanks for writing this and sharing it with us!
Sep. 5th, 2014 06:25 am (UTC)
Hey! Thank you heaps, I work very hard on dialogue so it's always great to hear when it pays off for people.

Love your avatar by the way.
(no subject) - adraekh - Sep. 5th, 2014 11:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Sep. 6th, 2014 03:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 4th, 2014 04:13 pm (UTC)
Oh man, leaving Cloud in a cave with Malboros in it. All the ways that could have gone horrifically for him...

Anyways, I rather loved the cracky silliness of this fic, especially since it helped cheer me up some during a few rough patches over the past couple of weeks.
Sep. 5th, 2014 06:26 am (UTC)
Glad to hear it could do that for you, writing it cheered me up a bit too. :) Nothing quite like the escapism of fanfiction.
Sep. 5th, 2014 03:01 am (UTC)
I could have sworn I commented yesterday...

Anyway, while it's a bad idea to reward Shelke for her poor behavior, I do so love the mopey boys getting their happyfuntimes. :D

Very sweet, thanks for writing!
Sep. 5th, 2014 06:28 am (UTC)
Maybe you forgot to hit post? That's happened to me before too. Thank you for commenting today!

So starts a lifelong problem of behavioural issues for Shelke. XD
Sep. 5th, 2014 04:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow! I usually all about Sephiroth/Cloud but this fic convinced me that Vincent/Cloud might be work too. Fantastic fic!
Sep. 8th, 2014 04:07 pm (UTC)

You know? I've reading you since... pfff, I think has past a year or more...

I'd never commented before cause strangely, I can read english but I can't write it. I'm from Mexico, and my level of the language is poorly. But I love your fanfics enought to fight with my deficiencies.

So, even if this seems like a 3 years old children letter, I want to render thanks.

I love your histories of FF more than any book that I've read in my life.

Sorry if this is unintelligible.

I can't extend this as I wish. I don't want to hurt your eyes with my horrendous misspellings.

Thanks! And, asvfgehe please! More Genesis/Cloud!

... ... Bye :3
Sep. 9th, 2014 07:55 am (UTC)
Oh neat, thank you for commenting! There's no need to apologise for your English, I'm always super impressed by anyone with a second language, as I know how difficult it can be with my own studies. Which makes me even more honoured to receive your comment. :)

Thank you so much, and I hope you keep reading! I don't have any Genesis/Cloud on the immediate horizon unfortunately but I'll definitely be writing more FF7!
Oct. 3rd, 2014 03:22 am (UTC)
Heh, yes tell Yuffie everything and warn her of impending doom in the form of Vincent and Cloud coming after her together. I doubt that will stop her mischief for very long...maybe long enough for the boys to get some proper private time together away from prying eyes. I can't see them really going through the honeymoon phase given how long they've known each other. I am curious though of if Cloud ends up all blushy at unexpected moments. I could see him doing that given his likely small experience of being in a relationship.

Now I'm tempted to request Vincent reacting in unexpected ways to Cloud's blushing whenever you next do a prompt me for drabbles type post.

I see nothing wrong with shallow stories. Sometimes it is just what is needed. Especially if it's clogging up much needed brain space because it simply has to be written.
Oct. 3rd, 2014 09:30 am (UTC)
Ha, that's not in the too distant future anymore is it? We'll see if you remember when the time comes. :)

Nothing wrong with shallow stories at all, I just like to warn people so they don't expect more. XD

Thanks for reading!
(no subject) - gardensgnome - Oct. 3rd, 2014 11:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Oct. 8th, 2014 08:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gardensgnome - Oct. 8th, 2014 09:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Oct. 8th, 2014 01:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gardensgnome - Oct. 10th, 2014 02:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Oct. 10th, 2014 09:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gardensgnome - Oct. 17th, 2014 01:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinnatious - Oct. 18th, 2014 11:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 16th, 2014 09:24 am (UTC)
Thank you for the heads up.
( 35 comments — Leave a comment )

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