Shera is mad at Cid and he doesn't know why, so Cloud writes a love letter for Cid to give to Shera, while Reno is having stalker troubles and Yuffie's imagination is running wild. CidxShera, Cloud...
Love Letter Chaos
"And I don't have a shiny of an idea of why the fudge Shera's so mad at me," Cid finished his narration. He and Cloud were at the Seventh Heaven, talking and having some drinks, while Tifa was busy tending to her customers.
Cloud looked thoughtful. From Cid's description, it sounded like Shera must be really upset. She had always been kind of apologetic. For her to actually demonstrate anger and make it quite obvious it was directed at Cid, something very upsetting must have happened. "Are you sure it's not just a random mood swing?"
"I've known Shera for years; she never has random mood swings." Cid truly couldn't explain what in the world was going on. Shera had been acting rather odd lately but nothing to be too concerned about. Then she just stormed out one day out of the blue.
"Maybe everything you ever said to her finally piled up and blew up in your face." The two men turned their attention towards Tifa, who had been clearly listening the entire time. How she managed to understand their conversation over the noise of the bar, they would never know.
"Do you mind? This is a private conversation between two men." It was hard enough for Cid to swallow his pride and tell Cloud about his problems with his wife. What if Tifa told Shera about the conversation? Cid certainly didn't want Shera to think he turned into a softie, because apologetic as she may be, she would never let him live it down, intentionally or not.
Tifa made a "hmp" sound as she walked to the other side of the bar to ask a new customer what he wanted. She turned her head back towards Cid and said, "who better than a woman to understand women," before turning her attention back to her red haired customer.
"She's got a point you know." From the corner of his eyes, Cloud thought he saw Tifa smile. She either was happy he acknowledged her point, or she was happy about the large amount of gil Reno had placed on the bar. The Turk could be quite a profitable customer.
"Ya see that's the problem, Cloud. She'll see things from a woman's point of view. To her, it's as clear as day, but even if she explains it, it's still going to be gibberish to us. That's why I need to figure this out from a man's point of view. I need to translate Shera's strange actions into a more or less logical idea, that hopefully won't be too fudged up to understand," Cid explained.
Cloud shook his head. "That's your problem Cid. You're trying to understand things that man kind was not meant to understand. Listen to me, you don't have to make sense out of it. Doing so may take months, even years, and by then it'll be too late. I heard Tifa tell Yuffie once that 'all men have their fair share of stupidity,' but I think it's just that female logic is too hard to learn. It's harder to decipher than the most top secret military code. They want us to know something but they don't tell us directly. They want to turn our brains to mush making us figure it out."
Cid looked slightly confused. "How the fudge is that helpful?"
"Quite simple, don't try to understand, try to make amends," Cloud added.
Cid paused. "How do I make amends if I didn't do anything wrong in the first place?"
Cloud looked at Tifa, who was currently serving Reno's third drink, and leaned closer to Cid. "Get romantic," Cloud whispered as if it was a terrible secret. Cid opened his mouth to protest about the useless suggestion, but Cloud spoke first. "Whatever you did, or didn't do, she'll forget about it if you get romantic. Just show you're sorry, even if you don't know why you're sorry." Cloud once again sat straight.
Cid tried to rationalize Cloud's explanation. "One thing is if she's mad at me for something I did, even if didn't do anything. But what's that you said about being mad at me over something I didn't do?"
"Something that she expected you to do, that you didn't do. Have you forgotten any birthdays, anniversaries or holidays lately? If so, you could buy her a nice gift and say you're sorry it's late, even if you don't know what the occasion is, but don't tell her you don't know. Flowers are pretty standard. Chocolates are nice too and if she's really mad, give her jewelry." Tifa rolled her eyes as she listened to Cloud. If she saw Shera, she would warn her not to go easy on Cid.
"I don't think that's it. I think it's something else, I just don't know what. Maybe I should just forget about it. Whatever it is, Shera will get over it and be all apologetic about storming out like that later," Cid sounded confident, maybe overconfident.
"You never know, Cid. Shera might not come back at all. If there's one thing I've learned all too well, is to never take loved ones for granted. She could leave and never come back. What would you do then?" Cloud sounded serious.
Cid was about to answer with something along the lines of 'I would lose a dang good mechanic,' but remained uncharacteristically silent and thoughtful. Cloud placed a hand on Cid's shoulder in a sympatric gesture. Cid looked at Cloud's encouraging smile and raised an eyebrow. "Don't you dare think for a second, not even for half a second, that I'm going soft."
Cloud moved his hand away as if it had been burned. "I didn't say that. I was just trying to be helpful. I have an idea."
"It better be a good one," Cid grumbled.
"I'm sure this will work and the best part is there's no way you could mess up the romance. Write a letter for her. It has to be a very lovey-dovey mushy letter. Since it's already written, things will go smoothly no matter what." Cloud smiled, amazed by his own genius idea.
"That's ridiculous!" Cid both annoyed and embarrassed by the idea.
"No it's not, it's a great plan. You have to really think about this, Cid. Shera could leave and never return unless you show her that you care. Show her you love her before you lose her forever!" Cloud had not noticed that he had raised his voice a little more than necessary and people were staring at him.
Cid noticed and he did not like the stares. "Then what did he tell you?" Cid pretended Cloud was merely relating an anecdote that did not involve him.
As people went back to their drinks, Cloud took a moment to blink in confusion, before realizing that Cid was just trying to keep people's attention away from their conversation. "Trust me, if you don't do this, you'll always regret it."
Cid reluctantly agreed. "Alright, I'll write the letter, but before I give it to Shera, I'll make her promise to burn it immediately after reading it."
xoxox xox xoxox
The next day, Cid put pen to paper and ended up writing countless drafts, which currently adorned the floor of Sierra, which was parked near the Seventh Heaven. Cursing the pen, the paper and Cloud's love letter idea, Cid crumbled another sheet of paper in his hands and threw it on the floor in frustration. The paper ball bounced and landed a few feet away, near a pile of paper balls just like it.
Finally, after several cups of coffee, a verbal dictionary of curse words and a lot of frustration, Cid Highwind had what could be the first acceptable draft of his letter to Shera. He didn't want anyone but Shera to read it, but the truth was that deep down he knew he needed help. It took him a good deal of time to find the courage to return to the Seventh Heaven and ask Cloud to check out his letter.
xoxox xox xoxox
Cid stood at the Seventh Heaven staring blankly at Tifa, who repeated her question. "How may I help you?" Cid looked like he was off in a distant land. His body was there, but his mind was nowhere in the ten mile radius.
Cid snapped out of it and cleared his throat, trying to act natural. "Is Cloud here?" Tifa give him an amused smile. So the pilot was back for more of Cloud's advice in love and relationships, very interesting. As if he was able to read her thoughts, Cid immediately tried to fix what he said, "I have a delivery for him to make," that was partially true.
"I'll get him, just a moment." Tifa went up the stairs in search of Cloud. Before Cid went out of her line of view, she glanced back at him one last time. He looked like he wanted to run out the door and if he held that piece of paper in his hand any tighter, it would disintegrate. Perhaps he did have a delivery for Cloud to make, or he would think of one just to convince her that he was telling the truth. Either way, one thing was for sure, the primary reason for his visit had to be advice. He looked frustrated and obviously felt ridiculous. Yes, he was definitely there to ask for help.
xoxox xox xoxox
The door to Cloud's room was half open so Tifa didn't think he would be doing anything too private. "Cloud, Cid is..." She paused as her eyes went wide, realizing she walked in at the worse moment possible, as Cloud was in the middle of the process of changing his clothes. She closed the door as soon as she regained the ability to move and pressed her back against it.
Cloud stood frozen, looking at the closed door. His pants were around his ankles as he was in the process of putting them on and dropped them when Tifa took him by surprise. He shook his head and tried to push away the awkwardness of the moment. With Cloud and Tifa living under the same roof, moments like that were inevitable and they had happened before, Cloud had a scar to prove it.
Before the awkwardness and surprised realization of her mistake rendered Tifa silent, Cloud had heard her say something about Cid. Perhaps the pilot had returned for more advice. The delivery boy momentarily considered opening an advice service, but quickly discarded the idea. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door.
Tifa who had been heavily leaning against the door lost her balance and fell backwards towards Cloud. In quick a movement Cloud managed to wrap his arms around her waist to keep her from falling. However, with nothing to keep him from falling, he crashed into the floor on his back with Tifa on top.
"Accident," Cloud proclaimed urgently.
"I know," Tifa scrambled to get up.
Once they were both on their feet, Cloud proceeded to ask about Cid, not only because he wanted to know what Tifa was about to tell him before, but also because if they got into a casual conversation, it might help ease the embarrassment and awkwardness of the moment. "What were you saying about Cid before?"
"He's here and he said he had a delivery for you to make, but I think he needs more of that boy talk you two had yesterday night. Do your best, you might just save his marriage," Tifa gave Cloud a reassuring pat on the back.
xoxox xox xoxox
Cloud went downstairs to find Cid pacing around impatiently. "Took your bloody time didn't you?"
Cloud didn't feel like explaining the reason for the slight delay. He instead recited his business' catch phrase. "Strife Delivery Service, you name it we deliver it!"
Cid almost rolled his eyes, pushing Cloud into a chair and slamming the letter on the bar in front of him. "Read it, give me constructive criticism and never tell a soul about this."
Cloud nodded and began to read the letter quietly. He occasionally raised an eyebrow and glanced at Cid in the most interesting parts of the letter. Cloud could easily tell the pilot was feeling very uncomfortable showing such a personal letter to him, but Cid was desperate for some constructive criticism. After finishing his reading, Cloud paused and cleared his throat. "Well, it's definitely personal." There were in fact quite a few things written there that he did not need to know.
"And?" Cid inquired impatiently.
"And you're on the right track, but you need to keep the colorful language to a minimum and add more romance. There is somewhat of an apology in there, if you tilt your head and squint, but it's so ambiguous I'm not sure if it's an apology or an accusation. Either way, it's a good first draft," Cloud passed judgment on the letter.
"First draft? You have no idea how many fudging drafts I made. That was supposed to be the final product!" The frustration that overcame Cid with his inexperience in the ancient art of writing a love letter was clearly evident.
Cloud was no love letter expert himself, but he had written a few letters to Tifa, which he was yet to grow the guts to give her. "How about we take this step by step and rephrase a few things?"
"I have a better idea. I'll tell you what to write and you can phrase it how you think it sounds best, just as long as you don't make me sound like a fudging wimp," Cid replied.
"Sounds good to me," Cloud agreed.
"Then let's get started, I want to get this over with," Cid urged.
To accomplish such a task, they would need pen and paper. "I'll go get a pen and paper," Cloud announced, getting up and heading towards the stairs.
xoxox xox xoxox
Cloud hurried upstairs to his room to find the necessary materials. He grabbed several sheets of paper and an envelope from atop his desk, which was also adorned with notes from past deliveries, scattered messily on the smooth wood surface. He could have sworn there was a pen there, but couldn't find it at the moment.
The delivery boy was certain that it couldn't be the only pen available in his room, so he gave up on finding it and went in search of another pen in a drawer. Cloud dug around, eventually catching sight of a closed envelope. It was one of his letters to Tifa which he was yet to give her. Pushing the envelope aside, Cloud found the pen he was searching for.
xoxox xox xoxox
Cloud returned downstairs, where Cid was waiting. "Alright let's get started."
Cid made pause before speaking. He wouldn't have to worry about how to word things since Cloud would do that, but thinking about the message he wanted to imprint in Cloud's written words was hard enough. "I just want her to tell me why she left, come back and let her know that I... well..."
"That you miss her and you're sorry that she got upset," Cloud finished for him and Cid glared, "just a suggestion."
"Fine, if it works," Cid reluctantly agreed.
Cloud nodded and began to write. He tried to make the letter sound as much like Cid as possible, without making it lose the romantic touch. The delivery boy stuck his tongue out on the side of his mouth in a sign of concentration. Sweat started to build up in his forehead, while he felt the constant pressure of Cid's unblinking gaze. Cloud tapped the end of his pen against the bar in the rhythm of a song he didn't remember the lyrics to. Then he continued as if the word he had been searching for in his mental dictionary had finally appeared.
Several sentences later, Cloud paused once more, grabbing a napkin from a near by pile to wipe the sweat off his forehead. He set the pen down momentarily and extended his arms, stretching them forward. He joined his hands and popped his knuckles, ready to put the finishing touches on the letter he was writing for Cid to give to Shera. Picking up the pen once more, Cloud didn't stop writing until he had filled up the page.
"Finished!" Cloud looked proudly at his work of art. "Now all you have to do is sign it."
Instead of taken the pen Cloud offered, Cid picked up the finished letter. "I don't sign anything before reading it." After finishing the task of reading the letter, Cid placed it on the bar in front of Cloud with a disapproving look. "I told you not to make me sound like a fudging wimp!"
"I didn't!" Cloud defended. "This is a romantic letter. It's not supposed to sound cocky or over confident or adventurous. It's supposed to sound sweet."
"Why would anyone want to read a thing like that? Shera's going to think I'm trying to bore her to death, then she'll really want to stay away," Cid complained.
"Trust me, she'll love the letter and come running to your arms," Cloud assured.
Cid didn't like this, but he reluctantly agreed anyway. "Alright I'll sign this crybaby letter you wrote." With the use of all his will power, Cid commanded his hand to sign his name at the bottom of the sheet of paper.
"Now all you need is an envelope." Cloud then hurried back to his room to fetch an envelope wondering why he had forgotten to bring one in the first place. He neatly folded the letter in three equal sections and placed it inside the envelope. He removed the strip of paper covering the sticky part and sealed the envelope which contained Cid's feelings as paraphrased by Cloud. He then handed the pen back to Cid who had left it on the bar after signing the letter. "What now?"
"You have to give Shera the letter. I assume you know where she's staying?" Cloud inquired.
"I have no dang idea. Do you think I would be doing this if I knew where she is? Wouldn't I just go over there and ask her in person why the fudge did she storm out like that and didn't come back?" Cid folded the paper and tugged the letter into the envelope, writing 'Shera' on top of the envelope.
"Then how will she read the letter if you don't even know where to find her?" Cloud asked.
Cid had already thought of a solution for that, "Strife Delivery Service."
Cloud was about to protest, but knew it was useless so instead he asked. "How will I find her?"
"That's your problem; live up to your business motto and deliver it. You must also protect this letter with your very life; no one except Shera can read it. Don't think your mission ends after you find Shera and give her the letter. You must inform her that it is vital that she burns it immediately after reading it. You will not leave until you have visual confirmation that she burnt the letter. That thing says a lot of mushy, lovey-dovey stuff and it has my signature on it." Cid has an expression that was a mix of terror, disbelief and frustration.
"What if she wants to read the letter in private? It won't be the same with me watching to make sure she burns it. Besides, she'll probably want to keep it," Cloud reasoned.
"Fine, just make sure to tell her not to show it to anyone. I'll find a good hiding place for her to keep the letter under lock and key when she comes back home." Great, now Cid would be hiding blackmail material in his own home. "Go find Shera and give her the fudging letter before I change my mind."
"Yes, sir!" Cloud humorously saluted and headed for the door. "Tifa, I'm going out to make a delivery!"
His voice easily reached the second floor where Tifa was and her answer soon came as "okay, see you later Cloud!"
xoxox xox xoxox
Cloud was on his motorcycle, Fenrir, on his way towards an unknown location. He stopped at a familiar place. A large sword was on the ground on a small mountain. He got off his motorcycle and approached the sword. The wind blew gently plying with his blonde hair. "I was given a mission today, I promised I would do a good job on any mission life gave me. This time I don't know where the delivery should go." Cloud closed his eyes, enjoying the soft breeze.
Suddenly Cloud felt a heavy weight on his shoulders. He needed to find Shera and deliver Cid's letter right away. If he didn't, it might be too late, she may be getting further away by the second, both physically and emotionally. What if by the time he found her she was not willing to return?
Cloud held the letter in his hands and looked into the distance. He often went to that place to think, but he couldn't stay for long this time. 'Where to start?' The wind must have been mischievous that day, for when Cloud lowered his guard and his grip on the letter was not tight enough, the envelope was blown away, stolen by the wind. To yell "come back here," was Cloud's first reaction, even if he obviously knew the letter wouldn't listen.
A ninja happened to be near by on her way to visit her friends. The wind carried the letter away from Cloud and towards her. Yuffie jumped and caught the letter in mid air. "Looking for this?"
"Yeah, thanks for catching it." Cloud was relieved.
As Yuffie handed the envelope back to Cloud, she glanced at the name written on it. "A letter for Shera?"
"Yes, I need to deliver it. Do you know where she is?" Cloud asked.
"No clue" Yuffie began to overanalyze the situation. 'Why wasn't the letter sent by postage? It doesn't make sense to hire a delivery boy for something that the postal service should be able to handle. Then again, the envelope didn't have an address.' "Have you tried asking Cid where Shera is? Maybe you could give the letter to Cid and he'll give to Shera."
Cloud carefully measured his words, he promised Cid secrecy. "I'm sorry Yuffie, I can't talk about this. Don't tell anyone, okay?"
Yuffie gave him a suspicious look. "Sure Cloud, I understand." There was something in her tone of voice that Cloud didn't like. "Go find Shera and make your delivery. I won't say a word to anyone. It'll be as if I never saw that letter. I'll keep it in completely secrecy from everyone, especially from Cid." It was a trick comment with emphasis on Cid's name and according to Yuffie, Cloud fell right for it.
She studied his expression at the mention of Cid's name. "I would appreciate that." Clearly, Cloud didn't want anyone to know his delivery had been intercepted, especially Cid.
"I'm sure you're in a hurry so I won't keep you any longer. I'll go see how Tifa is doing. See you when you finish your delivery!" Yuffie continued on her way, leaving Cloud with a feeling of foreboding.
Cloud took another look at the letter and then at the direction Yuffie had left in. The soft breeze returned to play with his hair, but the wind was not strong enough to try to steal the letter again. Cloud wondered why Yuffie sounded so suspicious. He certainly hoped she kept her word and didn't tell anyone about this. Then again, it's not like she knew what was written in the letter anyway. Maybe he was overanalyzing her reaction. He took one last look at the sword and headed back to Fenrir, off to search for Shera.
xoxox xox xoxox
As Yuffie ran towards the Seventh Heaven, many thoughts ran around her mind. The general feeling was of disbelief, accompanied by confusion and a sudden urge to interfere. 'That letter to Shera must be from another man. It can't be from Cid, he's not the type to write letters when he can say things in person. That explains why Cloud was hired to deliver it in secret. Shera isn't the type to cheat, so the only explanation is that she must have a stalker that Cid is unaware of. I can't believe Cloud would accept such a job, maybe he was bribed by the stalker. Maybe he was bribed with materia,' Yuffie grinned mischievously at the thought. Maybe she could distract Tifa and sneak into Cloud's room in search of materia. Accepting a job from a stalker was not the right thing to do, she would steal that materia in the name of truth and justice.
The ninja saw the Seventh Heaven ahead. Distracted by her materia theft planning, she had run there a lot faster than she expected. 'How time flies when you're planning to steal materia.' Yuffie slowed her pace to a casual walk, blending in with the people who walked by.
By then, Cid had already returned home to wait for Shera, so there was no sign of him or Sierra near by. "Hi Tifa!" Yuffie entered the Seventh Heaven.
"Yuffie, hello, what brings you here?" The two women sat down to talk.
"I want to visit everyone and see how things are going," Yuffie replied.
"Things have been definitely improving. Cloud is actually here more often than not," Tifa smiled for a moment, then looked unsure. "I'm not sure if he... I mean, he might just like me as a friend only."
"Have you told him how you feel?" Yuffie inquired.
"I hinted at it, but I'm not sure he caught the hints," Tifa admitted.
Yuffie saw an opportunity to raid Cloud's room for materia and took it. "I have an idea. We could take a look in his room and see if he's hiding anything. We might find actual proof that he likes you. Oh, I don't know maybe he has pictures of you hidden in his room or something like that."
"I don't there's any materia in there if that's what you're thinking," Tifa read Yuffie like a book.
'I have to hand it to her, she's smart, but why doesn't she understand this is for her own good? I can't tell her about Cloud working with Shera's mysterious stalker. She'll be disappointed in him and I don't want to ruin their relationship. Cloud is a good guy deep down. I understand that the temptation of being paid with materia for his secret delivery services is too great.' Yuffie thought.
"Besides," Tifa continued, "looking around a person's room without their permission is wrong."
Before Yuffie could reply, the door to the Seventh Heaven was opened and a certain redhead clumsily came in. He sat down near Yuffie and Tifa and collapsed into the bar. "Gimme something strong, hic! Where's the bartender? Hic, Tifa? There you are. Where's my drink, hic! I got plenty of gil!"
Yuffie blinked. "I'm Yuffie, Tifa is over there," she pointing at Tifa, who was shaking her head in disapproval for Reno.
"The bar isn't open yet and besides its obvious you've already had too much to drink. What happened to you Reno? Usually you can take alcohol quite well." Tifa was surprised.
"Gimme my drink, hic! I have to drown away my sorrows," Reno insisted.
Yuffie looked curious. It was one bad news after the other. Even so, whatever Reno's problem was, it couldn't be any more surprising than the news of Cloud being hired by a mysterious stalker, who was trying to steal Shera away from Cid. "Are you heartbroken?"
Reno shook his head 'no'. He had his head resting on his arms, laying on the bar, with a sad expression on his face, that reminded Yuffie of that orange cat from that ogre movie when he tried to look innocent.
Tifa looked thoughtful. "It's not heartbreak, but is it related to a woman?" Reno nodded sadly. Tifa moved so that she and Yuffie were sitting left and right from Reno. They weren't going to let him escape until he told them everything. "Tell us about it," Tifa spoke in a sweet motherly tone, as if trying to get her little boy to admit he broke something by convincing him that she wouldn't be angry about it.
The effect of the alcohol appeared to have started to ware off, being replace with severe hangover symptoms, which were rare for Reno. His head was pounding, threatening to explode any second, but his main concern was still that problem he had with that woman, that very annoying woman. "I told Rude about it and he said I should go out with her, but I don't like her. In fact, I can't stand her. I thought the feeling was mutual, but apparently it wasn't."
"Who is that woman you speak of?" It would certainly help Tifa come up with proper advice if she knew all the facts in more detail.
"Is it Elena?" The last thing Yuffie had heard about Elena was that she started dating Tseng, but with all the couple troubles that were in the air you never know.
Tifa and Yuffie stared at Reno, pressuring him to answer. It might have been an after effect of the alcohol, but Reno could have sworn their looks were burning him. "It's not Elena, yo! She and Tseng are a couple. Besides Elena is like an annoying, nosy, ranting little sister to me."
The tension in the air appeared to lessen and Tifa and Yuffie's stares didn't burn into Reno quite as hard as before. "If it's not Elena, who is it then?" Tifa inquired.
"Gun," Reno's answer was followed by surprised looks in the faces of Tifa and Yuffie.
"Elena's sister?" Yuffie was in disbelief. "But I thought she hated you."
"Yes, yes, I thought she hated me too! What do I do? She won't leave me alone. I thought that if I showed up drunk everyday, that would scare her off, but Gun was just as lovey-dovey as ever. In fact, every time Elena criticized something about the way I was acting, Gun would jump in to defend me and then Elena would encourage me to continue doing things the same way. Elena said she would learn to be tolerant with me because I was her future brother. Why does Gun have to spend so much time at Healin Lodge? Why can't Rufus send her away, far away, forever?" Reno had never been so frustrated.
Tifa and Yuffie exchanged confused and surprised looks, before they attempted to console Reno. "Calm down I'm sure we can come up with an idea," Tifa assured.
"Yeah, you just have to let her know you don't feel that way about her. Maybe you weren't specific enough," Yuffie added.
Reno was silent for a moment, while Tifa and Yuffie patted him on the back and petted his hair, as if he was a frightened kitten. "Not specific enough?" Reno's tone turned more serious. "I told her to her face that I thought she was the most annoying woman on the planet and that I would rather have Sephiroth's sword on my throat than go on a date with her. Is that not specific enough?"
There was something odd about the entire situation. Tifa and Yuffie didn't know what, but they found it all very suspicious. 'Looks like there's another mystery for me to solve,' Yuffie thought.
xoxox xox xoxox
At Healin Lodge, Elena was having a conversation with her sister, Gun, who had come in search of Reno. "How are things going with Reno?"
"Great, I think he'll ask me out really soon." Gun silently cursed herself for accepting that bet with her sister.
xoxox xox xoxox
It all started when Gun came by to report a few things to Rufus, even if he had instructed her to simply give the report to Elena, or any other of the Turks from his main team. Gun refused to think of her little sister as her superior. 'I've always been much more talented than her,' Gun thought as she arrived at the Healin Lodge. She got off her car, grabbing a black folder as she did, and slammed the door, not too happy about being there. Leaving the red convertible in an odd parking position in front of the Healin Lodge, Gun made her way in.
Gun made an inhuman effort to avoid her sister. She put into practice everything she knew about espionage. Elena would inevitably see the approaching car up the only road that led to Healin. Elena waited for Gun to arrive via the front door, but she didn't and when Elena looked out the window, Gun was nowhere to be found. Gun had gone in by the backdoor, carefully avoiding Elena. Just when Gun thought the coast was clear, footsteps were heard approaching.
Gun climbed on the walls of the relatively narrow hallway. She stretched as far as she could and held herself in place by pressing her hands and feet against the opposing walls. Elena had started to suspect that her sister was trying to avoid her. She usually took any chance she had to rub her failures in her face, but there were no failures this time. Gun looked down as Elena walked right under, without realizing she was there.
After Elena was gone, Gun jumped off the walls, landing quietly and made her way towards Rufus' office. She knocked on the door so gently, that it was a miracle that Rufus heard. She didn't want to attract Elena's attention now that she had no failures to criticize her about and her accomplishments in the Turks no longer measured up to what Elena was doing as a member of Rufus' personal team of Turks.
"Come in," came Rufus' voice from the other side of the door.
Gun entered the office, making sure to hastily and inaudibly close the door behind her. She approached the large desk, adorned with several piles of papers, old reports, pictures of the most significantly affected areas of the planet and a recent looking group photo of Rufus and his Turks in a golden frame. She placed the folder with the necessary reports in front of Rufus. "Everything proceeded smoothly. We had no trouble accomplishing our missions," Gun reported, even if she had not been asked about it.
"Yes, I assumed it would be easy," Rufus looked uninterested. "It was just a few chores, cleaning, buying supplies, mowing the lawn and so on."
Gun could feel her temper rising. Now that Shinra was no longer draining energy from the planet, there was no Avalanche to fight with. Things had progressed much more peacefully than expected and after the Geostigma incident ended, everything had been calm.
"Next time, you can just give the report to one my Turks." It was clear Rufus didn't want his time to be wasted.
There was really no need for a detailed report, it was just a protocol, unnecessary for such common daily tasks, but it looked like Gun felt more as if she was actually doing something important if that protocol was followed. The only down side to it was putting up with being around her sister who had a much more interesting job. 'When did that little brat become higher ranked than me?'
Gun remembered the first time she heard about Elena's promotion after Reno suffered an injury and had to be taken temporarily off the Turks until he recovered. Gun endlessly asked herself why she wasn't promoted instead of Elena. Finally, she concluded that Elena would only be on Rufus' main team temporarily, only until Reno recovered. To her unpleasant surprise, even after Reno was back with the main Turks, Elena still remained on the team. Gun kept telling herself that they only let Elena stay out of pity.
Even then, Gun always found something to complain about but, as Elena became more skilled and Gun's jobs continued to get more boring, she had run out of things to criticize, so she would rather not face her younger sister at the moment. Those two had always been rivals for years, since before Elena became a Turk. Except back then, it was just Gun picking on Elena to make her own success look bigger in comparison to Elena's past difficulties, now Elena had facts to defend herself with.
"I said you can leave now!" Rufus nearly yelled.
Gun snapped out of her memories and tried to look serious. "Yes, sir." Embarrassed that she was caught not paying attention, she tried to leave as quickly as possible. She was not pleasantly surprised that when she turned around and opened the office door, she found Elena blocking her path.
The younger blond stood aside, letting her sister pass and walked beside her, much to Gun's annoyance. "How have you been, sister?" Elena's voice was filled with great satisfaction. She was getting back at Gun for all those years when she made her think she wasn't good enough.
Gun mentally counted to ten and tried to keep her cool. Showing anger would only further prove her frustration. "Everything's great, how about you? Do you have a boyfriend yet?" Since she couldn't pick on her sister on a professional subject, she decided to aim for a personal subject. Gun had much more experience with men that Elena. She was always stealing her little sister's crushes.
Elena merely smiled, it was a real smile filled with happiness. Gun raised an eyebrow, curious of her sister's reaction. "Yes, actually I do." Elena felt her cheeks becoming pink at the thought. She and Tseng had only started dating recently, but things were going very well between them.
"Are you making this up?" By the look in Elena's face, Gun's guess was no, but she certainly hoped that Elena had simply become a good actress all of a sudden. 'Great, just great, she has a better job than mine and now a boyfriend, he better not be handsome. I bet he's a nobody; he has to be.' Gun had just recently broken up with a guy she was dating.
"I'm not making this up. Don't believe it if you don't want to, but Tseng and I are very happy together," Elena assured.
Gun stopped and stared at her sister. "You're dating Tseng, the leader of your Turks team?"
"Yes," Elena answered.
Once again Gun found herself mentally counting to ten. Perhaps comparing herself to her sister continuously to fill her ego was not such a good idea after all. Yet even now that the comparison wasn't so positive for Gun, she couldn't help it but to continue doing it. "Liar..."
"It's true and I don't care if you don't believe it," Elena was starting to get irritated. Her sister always managed to get her temper burning with anger.
"Are you even supposed to date someone from your team? You're making that up," Gun insisted.
"Rufus knows about it and he doesn't mind as long as we do our job, which is much more interesting than your job." Elena felt accomplished at her own comeback. She knew Gun was upset over Elena's higher ranked position.
"You're just a liar they keep in the Turks out of pity," Gun walked away, stomping her feet with every step and slammed the door shut, leaving Healin Lodge in a fury.
Elena stood there for a moment. She hated it when her sister said someone was taking pity on her. Maybe it was that way in the past, or so she was led to believe, but not anymore. Determined to prove that Gun was wrong, Elena followed her out.
Outside, enjoying the comfortable soft breeze, Tseng appeared to be discussing something with Reno, who was holding his long ponytail of bright red hair while he talked to Tseng, who pointed at it accusingly. Rude was looking rather upset, so Elena immediately came to the correct conclusion that their conversation was somehow related to hair. Tseng must have been lecturing Reno in hair care.
Walking past the other Turks without saying a word, Gun arrived at her car. "Don't just leave like that!" Elena called and Gun paused, her hand rested on her key but she was yet to start the car. "You're upset because of my success, aren't you?"
Gun did not answer, her week had not been the best and she didn't feel like dealing with this at the moment. "Just leave me alone, Elena. You know I can surpass you in the Turks if I put my mind to it. It's as easy as stealing your crush."
"If you go near Tseng, I swear I'll kill you," Elena had the deadliest glare.
Gun pouted, "I'm not going to try to steal Tseng, I could have any man I wanted."
Elena opened her mouth to reply, but closed it again. She could feel Tseng, Reno and Rude's eyes on her back. Elena then came up with a mischievous idea. She would get back at Gun and Reno at the same time, plus get a laugh out of it. Reno had to learn to stop playing pranks on her. That realistic looking plastic mouse prank was crossing the line. Elena was sure she was on the verge of having a heart attack when she saw the horrendous creature. In fact, if her beloved Tseng hasn't jumped in to her rescue, Elena would have shot the mouse, regardless of the damage the bullet would have caused to the floor. "Any man?" Elena whispered in the most challenging tone she could come up with. Her sister loved challenges.
Gun raised an eyebrow. Clearly Elena was planning something. "Yes, any man."
"Even Reno?" Elena made sure to keep her voice down so the guys wouldn't hear.
Not wanting to back down on her word, Gun could only give Elena an affirmative answer. She nodded her head slowly, almost doubtfully, "yes, even Reno." As far as she knew, Reno wasn't too fond of her and the feeling was mutual. Gun found the red haired Turk to be very immature and annoying and He found her to be too serious and boring.
Elena couldn't fight her imperative need to smile from ear to ear, "prove it."
Gun mentally cursed and kicked herself for getting into this mess. She wasn't going to back down from a challenge from her sister, not in a million years. "Fine, no problem, just wait and before you know it, I'll have Reno begging me for a date." If Elena had known how torturous the experience of being staked by Gun would be to poor Reno, her conscience would have forbidden her from bringing such a curse upon him. "To make things more interesting let's make a bet," Gun suggested.
xoxox xox xoxox
In the present time, Rude arrived at the Seventh Heaven in search of his partner, who had left quite upset. By then, Gun had departed from Healin Lodge and Rude came to inform Reno that it was safe to go back.
"Go on, things will get better soon," Tifa encouraged.
Yuffie appeared to be lost in thought, trying to tie loose ends together and somehow link all the strange occurrences that have been taking place. It was as if she was trying to solve a puzzle with pieces belonging to different pictures. Yet somehow, she would push those puzzle pieces into place and make them fit where they did not belong, creating a very odd scenery.
Reno nodded, "alright."
xoxox xox xoxox
On his way to Healin Lodge with Rude, Reno got an idea. Maybe it was time to get a pet, a loyal guardian that would protect him from the stalker so he would feel safe sleeping at night, without having to lock down his room as if an army of Sephiroths was hunting him down. While most people would rely on a guardian dog, Reno had something else in mind.
Reno was reminded of those Saturday morning cartoons he used to watch when he was little. A cat would somehow end up with a white stripe painted on her back and tail and a skunk would fall in love with her. However, she did not return his feelings and absolutely hated his terrible scent. His infatuation only lasted as long as the white line remained painted on the poor cat's black fur.
This time, it would be different, because unlike in cartoons, skunks did not smell bad all the time, only when they felt threatened. Maybe Reno could train one and surely if Gun got skunked, she would never forgive Reno and would never think of him as a love interest. "Rude, I think what we need in Healin Lodge is a pet."
Rude shook his head remembering when Reno got a puppy that chewed up Rufus' favorite bunny slippers. If the scene repeated itself with Rufus new air of Pikachu slippers, there would be in big trouble.
"Yes, I know, the puppy incident. I think Rufus is more of a cat person," Reno mused.
Rude continued shaking his head.
"Please!" Reno gave his partner his best sad kitten look. "Besides, the breed of cat I have in mind doesn't scratch furniture."
Rude gave Reno a suspicious look, while the redhead started bouncing around in the car, insisting over and over, in a very annoying and repetitive way, that he wanted a kitty. Rude couldn't say no to the childish display. That is how they ended up in a zoo.
It was rather illogical to search for a cat in a zoo. Rude tried to explain that to Reno, but he wouldn't listen. The second Rude got distracted, he lost sight of Reno in the crowd and that is when a certain thought occurred to the bald Turk and Rude started to frantically search for his partner. There was no way he was going to let Reno adopt a lion, a tiger, or any of those big cats.
After searching for a while, Rude was in part relieved to finally see Reno approaching with a small animal in his arms, but he knew it couldn't be that easy. He caught a glimpse of black fur. "Panther cub?"
"Of course not, she's a skunk," Reno spoke as calmly and naturally as one would refer to a cat or dog.
Rude stood there staring for a full ten seconds, before realizing that Reno was in fact serious. "Skunk?"
The red haired Turks nodded energetically. "Let's stop by the pet shop to get her some toys and food." Without a care in the world, because he had a finally come up with a real fool proof plan for his Gun dilemma, Reno happily skipped off back to the car.
"No," Rude stood in the way.
"I called Rufus about it and he agreed," Reno insisted.
Rude stared at his partner as if he grew a second head. He could always tell if Reno was telling the truth and he never lied to him anyway. Rude concluded there had to be more to this, but for the moment being he would play along.
xoxox xox xoxox
After shopping for pet products, the two Turks arrived at Healin Lodge. Elena and Tseng were having a quiet conversation in the living room. Gun's car was parked outside, she had returned again, but Reno was ready for her. Before Gun found them, at Rude's insistence, they went to see Rufus. There was a knock on the door and soon two Turks entered, after hearing Rufus' voice telling them to come in.
"Rude won't believe that I got permission to bring a pet this time," Reno complained.
"I see, well it's true," Rufus looked at the little animal Reno held wrapped in a baby blanket. Reno had said it was a rare breed of cat. Well it was rare, that was for sure. Because of the blanket, Rufus couldn't see the characteristic white line on its back. "Is it a he or a she?" Rufus petted the skunk's head as calmly and naturally as one would pet a cat.
"It's a she, I haven't named her yet. I want to find a really cool name for her," Reno replied.
"Materia," Rufus suggested. It was something that reminded him of Shinra's former days. Though he was trying to fix the damage done to the planet, that didn't mean the positive aspects of Shinra's history had to be forgotten and there was nothing wrong with giving a pet a powerful name. Rude could not believe that Rufus was actually okay with having a skunk around.
"There's materia that names pets?" Reno asked in surprise.
"No, I mean Materia as a name," Rufus clarified.
"Materia... I like it! Hear that girl? Your name is Materia. I think she likes it. You see Rude? Rufus likes Materia, he even named her," Reno happily pet his dear Materia.
Rude looked back and forth between Reno and Rufus and finally addressed Rufus, "Materia is-"
"Very rare, I already explained that," Reno's interruption made it obvious that he didn't want Rude to mention the word skunk. "C'mon Rude, let's go set up the things we bought for her!"
No matter how hard Reno tried, Rude refused to leave the office, until Rufus also urged him to go. "Make sure Reno doesn't put the litter box in the middle of the hall," with that mission, Rude was sent off to assist Reno in his pet duties.
"He will find out," Rude told his partner, while the set up the litter box in a corner instead of right in the middle of the hall, where Reno had put it, apparently he thought it would be easier for Materia to find it there despite Rufus' warning.
xoxox xox xoxox
Meanwhile, Tseng and Elena were talking. "That's how it all started, but I feel sorry for him now," Elena had just finished confessing about her bet with her sister.
"You should tell him the truth. It's wrong to let a fellow Turks suffer," Tseng would agree that Reno might deserve a little punishment, but the poor guy had suffered enough.
"I'm sorry," Elena was being tortured by her guilty conscience after making Reno put up with her sister like that. It was also Gun's fault for accepting, but Elena couldn't help it but to feel responsible.
xoxox xox xoxox
Back to Rude and Reno, Gun had finally found them; Healin Lodge was larger than it looked. Reno gave her his best smile, which took her by surprise. "Hi Gun, guess what? I got a new pet! Her name is Materia, do you want to hold her?"
"I would love to and I'll help you take care of her. Materia will be our little baby!" Gun soon regretted her words when she saw that Reno tried to give her a skunk. She immediately jumped back.
"What's wrong? Don't you want to hold our baby?" Reno was endlessly amused.
"I've had enough!" Fearing that she would forever smell like a skunk if she stayed any longer, Gun ran away. With teammates as crazy as that, Gun felt lucky she wasn't with Rufus' main team of Turks after all.
At that moment, Elena entered the room to follow Tseng's advice and tell Reno what was going on. "Reno, I have to tell you something but first, why did Gun run out like that just now?"
"Oh, no reason," Reno looked innocent, but it was the innocence of a very mischievous child. "I just asked if she wanted to hold my pet."
Elena stared at the skunk in his arms, "a skunk?" She backed away slowly, making no sudden movements, to avoid starling the skunk. As long as it didn't feel threatened, it wouldn't unleash its terrible scent.
"Relax Elena, this little one is used to being around people, she won't skunk you unless you step on her tail or something. Her name is Materia, Rufus named her. Did you have to tell me something?" Reno asked.
Somehow Elena didn't feel like telling Reno about the bet anymore. Tseng stood at the door watching the scene. Elena paused for a moment, debating on what to say and finally spoke. "I was going to say that if my sister is really bothering you, I'll talk to her and get her to stop stalking you. It looks like she's gone, but if she comes back let me know."
"I didn't think you would do that for me. I thought you were amused by watching her stalk me," Reno admitted.
Elena shook her head vigorously. "Of course not, sorry if it looked that way. I will never let a fellow Turks suffer ever again." Tseng looked satisfied enough with Elena's promise and didn't insist on having her confess. Besides, he really didn't want his girlfriend to risk getting skunked. All in all, in was a happy ending for the Turks and Gun never bothered Elena or Reno again.
xoxox xox xoxox
The next day, there was a friendly get together at the Seventh Heaven. Barret had arrived with Marlene and Denzel after taking them to visit the new and improved Corel though they spent most of their time during the visit playing with the Gold Saucer's newest arcade games.
It just so happened that Red XIII, aka Nanaki, and Reeve, who brought Cait Sith, also decided to come by. Cid was also in Edge wondering what was taking Cloud so long to finish his delivery, he still hasn't heard from Shera. Yuffie was there as well, trying to get more clues for her investigation.
"This has to be the most depressing bar in Edge right now," Tifa observed her guests.
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Cloud had recently returned after searching for Shera to deliver the letter, but so far he had no luck in finding her. He had given it his best try, but simply couldn't find her. He had a feeling that maybe she didn't want to be found. How would he tell Cid? The pilot had trusted him, thinking that the letter would resolve whatever conflict happened between them.
With a solemn and defeated mood, Cloud rested in his room. The general mood was not that of a happy get together. It seemed that most of the members of their little party were consumed by worries and those who didn't have problems of their own, started to worry about their friends' problems.
"Cloud!" Cid's voice was heard, followed by the sound of his footsteps coming up the stairs, followed by a curious Tifa and Yuffie. "I just found out you were back, I'm guessing since you sneaked upstairs without saying anything, it's because you haven't made the delivery yet?"
"I'm sorry," Cloud apologized.
"Then give it back, I withdraw the delivery" Cid replied.
Tifa, who actually knew what Cid was talking about, gasped. "You can't give up now! What about Shera?"
Yuffie was suddenly on full alert. Did they know about the stalker? Was Cloud a double agent working for the stalker that sent the letter and also working for Cid? "Hey what are you talking about? What delivery?"
"It's nothing, just a letter that there no point in sending after all," Cid received the envelope from Cloud.
"Cid, you really shouldn't give up like this. Maybe I didn't look hard enough. I'll go back and keep searching for Shera," Cloud offered.
Yuffie looked back and forth from Cloud to Cid, until she came to a conclusion. "You mean that letter you were trying to deliver was from Cid to Shera? Then you weren't bribed by a stalker?"
Cloud blinked in confusion, "what are you talking about?"
Yuffie laughed nervously and placed a hand behind her head, "nothing, nothing..."
"I can honestly say I know nothing about this delivery," Yuffie sounded truly sincere, so Cid decided to take her word for it.
"Last stop, top floor, bed rooms, bathrooms, strawberry spray and a few people talking." Nanaki had just arrived, carrying Marlene and Denzel on his back.
Soon the others followed. "You decided to move the get together party upstairs? Well that's fine by me if someone would just tell me what's goin' on" Barret asked.
"It's complicated," Tifa was unsure of how much information she should reveal so as to not make anyone feel uncomfortable, especially a certain pilot who was trying his best to hide how worried he really was. Luckily, she was given an opportunity to change the subject. "Nanaki you said something about strawberry spray? I'm happy you noticed, I've been using that scented spray upstairs so the bar smell won't be here too and no one had mentioned it until now."
"Yes, I notice these things right away," Nanaki proudly replied.
The children took deep breaths, searching for the scent in the air. "It does smell like strawberries," Marlene noted.
"You're right, I didn't notice until I was looking for it," Denzel agreed.
"I have to leave for a while," Cloud announced. "You guys continue with the reu- I mean, the get together, while I go out to finish a delivery." Because reunions were for Sephiroth, they had get together.
"Forget it, Shera's gone; I'll just have to accept that. Maybe I didn't deserve her." Everyone looked at Cid, to hear him say such things was a big surprise. He went down the stairs, with the intention of leaving, and everyone followed him.
To their surprise, none other than Shera herself had just arrived and was waiting downstairs. "Shera!" At the base of the stairs, there stood Cid.
"Cid!" Shera ran to him and was received with open arms. "I'm so sorry I left, I'm sorry!"
"Shera, don't apologize anymore. I'm the one who should apologize to you. I don't think I've made it clear how much I..." Cid paused when he realized that all eyes, and ears, where on him. "Can we talk later?"
Shera smiled, she knew what he was trying to say. "Of course, that envelope has my name on it; did you write me a letter?"
"This? It's nothing, I'll just tell you what I was going to tell you in person," Cid tugged the letter in his pocket but deep down knew, Shera would somehow get a hold of it later, She would make sure he didn't have time to destroy it. "Anyway since you two helped out so much, Cloud don't you have something to tell Tifa?" Cid desperately tried to draw all the attention away.
Cloud's face became red as everyone nodded in his direction. Was he that obvious? It looked like Tifa was the only one who didn't know about Cloud's feelings for her and vice versa. "No, not really..." Cloud took a deep breath, calling upon every bit of courage he had. This was scarier then facing Sephiroth a hundred times over. "Actually, I do have something to say." After another long pause, Cloud finally choked out, "Tifa I love you!"
After finally saying it, time stood still for a moment until Tifa's reply came, "I love you too!"
That's when Yuffie started chanting "Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!" Cloud and Tifa followed the advice and soon after so did Cid and Shera and everyone clapped and cheered for the couples.
xoxox xox xoxox
As for Materia, days later, Rufus eventually realized she was a skunk. It all started when Yuffie heard about a rare materia Reno had and decided to take a look. She was about to enter Reno's room via the window, when the Turk emerged from under the bed. "Not there... Yuffie? What are you doing here?"
Yuffie tried to excuse herself. "I was just coming on a friendly visit to a friend?"
"Why use the window?" Reno asked.
Yuffie hopped inside and made a pose. "This is the ninja way!"
"Okay, if you say so. Right now I'm kind of busy looking for Materia," Reno was referring to his pet skunk, but didn't specify clearly enough.
"It's pretty obvious you already searched this room," Yuffie examined the very messy room.
"My room is always like this, unless our local neat freak cleans it. Anyway, I did already search here. Maybe I should look under the couch," Reno's little pet loved to crawl under the furniture.
Yuffie was close to asking who the local neat freak was. She guessed either Elena or Tseng, but materia was a more imperative matter. "I'll go take a look!"
As Yuffie dashed off, Reno wondered why she was suddenly being so helpful. Either way, it was okay if Yuffie knew about Materia as long as Rufus didn't find out the truth about her. At least Reno assumed Yuffie knew, maybe because she was a ninja, well she wouldn't offer to help search unless she knew what she was looking for, so she must have found out somehow.
'This is too easy.' Thinking she had an easy steal, Yuffie stuck her hand under the couch and felt around for something that reassembled materia. Instead she felt something furry. Curious to see if it was some kind of plushie, she pulled it out by the tail then her screams echoed loudly.
When Rufus heard the commotion and discovered Materia to be a skunk, he ordered Reno to take her back to the zoo. Needless to say, Yuffie never tried to steal from Reno again.
Disclaimer, I do not own Final Fantasy VII. There are references to Puss in Boots (Shrek), Pepe le Pew (Looney Toons) and Pikachu (Pokemon).