[OGC] Cloud was never trained to deal with hyperactive ninjas and repeated roller coaster rides... unfortunately. (slight Cloud x Yuffie. Set just before Cloud gets the Keystone.)
They'd gone straight to Battle Square, hoping to find Dio and get the Keystone quickly, only to learn from an apologetic secretary that he was out on some business or another, and he wouldn't be back until late in the afternoon. Abruptly they'd found themselves with a few hours to kill, which had made Cloud antsy from the start, because he didn't like having time to kill. Waiting was not something that he was good at.
After a while, Cloud realized that he was going to be spending his free time with Yuffie, who would not stop reminding him that he had asked her to hang out with him last time they'd gone up there, and that they'd had their playtime interrupted by the trip down to the prison and Barret's big drama and a whole lot of other things that had happened since then. Which was true, but he wasn't sure that he was in the mood to hang out with anyone that night, let alone Yuffie. Things were too crazy, and besides, he still wasn't sure that she was actually sorry for the whole Wutai incident. Yes, she had finally apologized, two nights ago on the road as she was on watch and he was driving... but only after he had admitted that yes, he did have a pretty good idea of why she'd done what she'd done, and that he realized she wasn't just doing it to be a pain.
He might've been happier about the idea if any of the others had decided to tag along; it would feel a little less awkward. But Aeris and Tifa had run off with Red to try some of the arcade games, and Cid, Barret and Vincent had announced their intentions to find a decent bar as soon as possible. Cait Sith had chattered on a bit about having to do some fortune-telling work if he wanted to stay on the payroll, and then he had bounced off.
So there they were, he and Yuffie, just the two of them.
"Wheeee! Eat /this/, alien scum!"
He corrected himself. Just the two of them, along with a billion floating targets and the sound of firing laserguns, over and over and over again. It was enough to drive even him nuts.
"Ha ha ha - hey, Cloud, come on! Why the heck aren't you firing!?"
He didn't answer, except to lift the zapgun - attached to the roller-coaster car by a convenient tether, as if anyone would actually want to steal it - and start firing at more targets. He was good at sword-fighting, but the zapgun used a different set of muscles, muscles that he didn't use often and that were starting to get tired, and he had every right to rest, because if they beat the high score, Yuffie was going to take all of the credit anyway....
The ride ended again, with Yuffie swearing in her own language - at least he assumed that was what she was doing, since the alien ship had gotten away - as they arrived back at the station. She practically hopped out of the car, throwing the zapgun back down onto the seat. Cloud was a bit slower about exiting; sure, he'd been faster the first few times, but that had been a very long time ago.
"So," Yuffie asked the attendant, "did I beat my high score?"
"Well... not quite, Miss," the poor beleagered lady said. "Just twenty points -"
"Oh, great! If we'd just snagged that stupid UFO...." She shook her head. "Well, Cloud, I guess we get to try it again!"
"Come on, already!" She was already grabbing his arm. "I wanna beat that high score before we leave!"
"Look, Yuffie, tell me something, ok? Cloud asked, trying not to sound too irritated - he was starting to feel a little dizzy, like he was still on the ride and about to fall off, "How can you ride this thing over and over when you get sick as soon as you set foot on a boat?"
"It doesn't feel the same as a boat ride," she said offhandedly. "Besides, the coaster's actually /fun./" She ran back to the gate. "Come on, already! I wanna beat my high score!"
"You've already beat it twice before now," Cloud protested. "We DO have more important things to do, you know."
"Oh, come on. You know that Dio won't have time for us for another, oh, another half-hour at least. Not like we can't have a little fun in the meantime, right?"
He checked his watch, and was irritated to discover that she'd gotten the time almost exactly right; they didn't have to be back for another half hour. "...then let's do something else. I'm getting bored."
"You wanna do something else? Fine. Go ahead." She stuck out her tongue. "/I'm/ gonna beat my high score with or without your help."
She ran back to the entrance gate, and Cloud hesitated only a minute before he followed her, shaking his head. "...okay," he said as he reached her, "but this is absolutely the last time."
"You said that last time," Yuffie said, poking him in the stomach. "And the time before that, and the time before that, and -"
"Well, I mean it this time." He was trying to sound cold and stern. It wasn't quite working. "It's not as if this roller coaster is the only ride in Gold Saucer!"
"Oh, come on. Why would I ride a stupid carousel or whatever when this game lets me blow stuff up?"
"Well... maybe they have some kind of ninja game down at Wonder Square, or something."
"Ninja game? Oh, /please./" Then she seemed to pause to think. "Well... maybe. Yeah, let's beat that high score this time, and then we'll go find out."
"Yeah. Great." He got into the car, silently wishing that there had been some lines that day - the place was practically deserted compared to what it had been the last time, and he didn't understand why. But maybe standing in a nice long line for the roller coaster would've dulled her enthuasium for it.
I really hope this is the last time, he thought as the car lurched away from the station, to the sound of Yuffie's laughter.
They didn't just beat Yuffie's high score that time. They absolutely slaughtered it. Cloud wasn't sure how he'd done it; maybe it was the thought of actually being able to get away from Speed Square for a while. Either way, Yuffie couldn't stop grinning, and it was hard for Cloud not to smile too, despite being dizzy and a little bit queasy.
But the euphoria didn't last long, and he only dimly heard Yuffie's argument with the clerk at the prize desk, being preoccupied with the extreme novelty of actually being able to NOT stare at brightly-colored targets for a while. He knew that it had involved an umbrella - an obscenely expensive designer umbrella, but also an obscenely pink and glittery umbrella, as the clerk and Yuffie took turns telling each other. In the end it had been Yuffie who had snatched the thing up and grabbed Cloud by the arm, pulling him away.
"C'mon," she said shortly. "I am through with this place. Let's go find that ninja fighting game."
"...yeah," Cloud said after a while, which he spent trying not to stumble as he walked. He was starting to wish that his training for SOLDIER had included ways to deal with crazy teenage ninjas and repeated rides on roller coasters; it had, he thought, left a very large gap in his education.
His stomach started to calm down a bit as they walked, and eventually they made it to Wonder Square; Cloud had been half-hoping to meet up with Red and the other girls, but they were nowhere in sight. Yuffie quickly found a VR martial-arts game that kept her occupied for a while. Cloud stayed back near the arcade entrance, just relaxing; when he closed his eyes he saw the targets floating in front of him again, so he kept them open, staring straight ahead into the color and light of the arcade. Once in a while he caught himself staring at Yuffie as she kicked and chopped at nothing, and he kept looking away, thankful that Yuffie couldn't see him; he could probably beat her in a fight, but he wasn't in the mood.
Finally she looked up and took off the VR helmet, blinking and shaking out her hair. "Hey," she called to him, but her voice was barely audible over the sounds of the arcade, and Cloud shook his head and looked down at his watch. Then he pointed to the door before turning away.
She followed him out. "It's that late /already?/" she asked once the worst of the noise was behind them.
"Do you know how long you were playing that game?" he asked. "Or how much gil you spent on it?"
"Well, sure, but I thought you were gonna join me, you know? I mean, coming here was your idea, so why didn't you play too?"
I wasn't up to it, he thought, but decided to keep that to himself. "...later," he said instead.
"All right, fine. Suit yourself, if you don't think you're tough enough. But I'm gonna hold you to that!"
"Fine." He sped up a bit. "Come on, we have to get to the arena. The others are probably waiting for us."
"Okay, already... geez." She ran up beside him. "Oh, that reminds me. Catch!"
"What?" He stopped and looked up to see her tossing the umbrella that they'd won at Speed Square at him, and caught it without thinking. He held it at arm's length in front of him and stared at it for a moment. It was, as he'd already noticed, very pink. Extremely pink, as a matter of fact, so bright and glittery and fancy that it could've hurt someone's eyes just to look at it.
"Little gift for you, Cloud. Don't say I never gave you anything for saving my butt," she said, and grinned.
"Yuffie," he said slowly, "what am I going to do with a bright pink umbrella?"
"Oh, I don't know... stand under it when it rains, maybe," she said, then grinned widely. "Or give it to someone else, if you don't have the guts to use it."
"But it's yours. I mean, don't you... after all of that time we spent..."
"Do I look like I need an umbrella? I'm not gonna melt if I get caught out in the rain, you know!" She shook her head, then broke into a run. "Now come on, slowpoke!" she yelled over her shoulder, "or you're gonna be late!"
Cloud shook his head. Had he been like that at sixteen? He couldn't seem to remember....
He was starting to feel rather glad that there weren't that many other people around; he didn't mind people staring at him, but people staring at him because he was holding a flouncy pink umbrella was an entirely different matter. Ah, well, he thought. He'd figure out what to do with the umbrella later. Maybe one of the other girls would want it, and frankly he didn't care; if it was meant to be a gift, he thought, it wasn't a very good one. Then again, it was the first gift that she'd ever given him; maybe that counted for something...
He glanced down at his watch again, and discovered that she was right about one thing; he was going to be late if he didn't get moving. He broke into a run and followed her.
A/N: Written for a ficathon at finalfantasy100 (lj). Cloud's hard to write at this stage of the game.
The thing about the park being deserted is my answer to how you can ride the roller coaster over and over again. As for why it's deserted, Cloud never finds out (but Shinra probably has something to do with it, considering their plans for the night.)