From time to time I do actually write something that's not character introversion. This is one such train wreck of insanity and pointlessness. Hope you enjoy the ride and blame it all on YouTube's cosplay vids and fanfic's very own Horky for planting the idea with her FFVII fic 'Rita Boltspirit' (its a great read by the by). BEWARE!!! Not for the geekly challenged or faint of heart (that's right, baby, I'm on cold medication and I'm flying the geek flag high tonight!).

Tales Within Tales

By TamLin

Tifa looked at herself in the hotel mirror with a tipped head, hands on her hips. The mini-skirt and halter top were a heck of a lot skimpier than what she usually wore working in the family bar and grill that she'd taken over running since her father had gotten sick. At the bar it was shorts, apron for the pockets, and a leather vest to keep the spilled liquids from soaking her. The – 'cloth-challenged' outfit she was sporting now would have sent most of her friends into shock but that was part of the fun, wasn't it? Going to a convention was about being someone other than yourself for a couple of days, right?

Tifa had decided to go as Rita Boltspirit.

Sure, The Last Tale of Rebellion was a semi-cheesie movie. Tifa had gone for the action sequences, which had made her drool – but she'd walked out with the story stuck in her head. It had been a silly story – but something in it had lodged inside her brainpan and she'd still found herself thinking about it on and off for weeks afterward. And it really all came down to the characters of Rita Boltspirit and Phoenix Clash. The unrequited love affair that had tugged in equal measures at Tifa's natural 'not fair' reflex that always liked to mentally right wrongs in a 'white knight on their horse' kind of way and in the sad and sympathetic, almost comforting way that always made you feel like you weren't the only one in the world that wanted to be loved and wasn't. Not that Tifa had anyone in particular in mind that she wanted to be loved by, it was just – being loved at all. By someone other than your family and friends. While she didn't write angsty poetry about it or even think about it most of the time – running a business full time when barely past legal drinking age and keeping her siblings upbeat and together took up a lot of mental room – she was still a girl and she thought probably just about every girl wanted someone to love her the way Clash SHOULD have loved Rita.

Instead the hero of the movie had overlooked his childhood friend and constant partner and fallen in love with Iris, the saintly, dead heroine of the movie, ending the credits by looking up at the stars and vowing to find a way of bringing her back while Rita had looked on in love and silence, eyes on him instead of the stars.

God – and when Tifa used that word she really was talking to The Man - Tifa really hoped Hollywood didn't make a sequel. They'd never get it right. But – being Hollywood they were probably already hiring monkeys to pound away at typewriters waiting for Shakespeare to get produced for the next two follow ups.

Now she messed with her hair a bit more, trying to get the bangs to curl right. At least Rita had worn sensible shoes and so Tifa wouldn't be trekking all over the convention in heels or anything. She pressed her lips together in a face.

She was really going to have to watch the way she sat down in a skirt this short…

"Hey, Teef," Aerith, best friend and the evil vice that had convinced her to come to the convention in the first place, stuck her head around the corner from the bathroom. "Is my wig on straight?"

Aerith was going as 'Wendy' from the canceled Middleman TV series this year and unlike Tifa that had put her outfit together cheaply with a couple trips to the local discount retailers and a handy – er, hand with a needle and thread, Aerith had spent months working on her costume. Aerith was always exposing Tifa to obscure shows and books and comics Tifa never would have found on her own in a million years. Sure, Tifa had been geek enough to squeal over the fact that the last Transformers live action movie had used the same voice actor for Optimus Prime/Convoy that she remembered from her childhood and sure she actually understood the villains everyone threw around in the chat rooms as suggestions for the upcoming Batman and Spiderman movies. Heck, she even caught Sandman references from time to time and could banter online Monty Python quips with the best of them but if it wasn't for Aerith Tifa would never have already known about Watchmen long before the movie came out or the Jekyll mini-series on BBC and, most tragic of all, enjoyed watching Wendy and 'Boss' take on 'fighting evil so you don't have to' each week until the series was canceled.

Philistine big wig TV execs…

Now she walked over to look critically at her friend's dark frizzy wig, carefully helping hid the last strands of much longer, lighter brown hair under it. Tifa had opted to just dye her own hair a lighter brown than it was naturally and caught it back in a tail that was tied at the very end. There was no way she was going to win points for it being anywhere near long enough but who really fought battles with hair down to the backs of their knees anyway? Besides, judging from the way the mini-skirt felt, Tifa figured most people wouldn't be looking at the length of her hair.

Satisfied with her work she nodded decisively at Aerith, or rather, 'Wendy Watson, Middle-person in training'. Her best friend grinned in pure 'only Aerith possible' glee and whipped out her digital camera to hold it away from them and snap a picture.

"Let's do it" Tifa mocked her character's lame trademark line and with all the panache of an equally lame Dr. Who secondary character Aerith winked and gestured in a 'charge!' manner for the door.

The convention was in easy walking distance of the hotel. In fact, the hotel Tifa and Aerith were staying at was one of the three that linked with the convention center. Though all you really had to do was walk out of your room to feel like you were already there. Not everyone dressed up for conventions like this – but enough did that there was no doubting the 'circus' had come to town. Tifa saw two storm troopers, one Membari, a Barbie and Ken cross-dressed couple and a very – creatively dressed – Pink Power Ranger before they even made it out the lobby doors. Aerith had a hand linked around Tifa's wrist and laughed and joked the whole way. She was an old hand at conventions but Tifa thought the day her friend lost the ability to enjoy almost any situation was probably about the time she'd start looking into post-Apocalyptic survival guides. She already had the The Zombie Survival Guide on her desk at home. It only helped matters that her little brother's dog had chewed up the cover a little.

The convention was the largest one on the continent and it covered everything that was 'geek'. Comics, gaming, minis, fantasy, sci-fi – this year Tifa had even heard there were a couple of Furry groups – 'Furries' being a term she also now knew with dubious thanks to Aerith's expansive knowledge of all things 'geek'. There would be displays, booths, exhibits, lectures, competitions, karaoke, movie screenings, RPG games, guest appearances (Tifa was planning on seeing 'Jayne' from the Firefly series (again with the obtuse big wig TV execs) in the hopes of getting an autograph for her sister, a huge fan of the character) – it was mind boggling how much they managed to fit into so few days. She and Aerith had meticulously gone over the catalog and scheduled everything with a dedication neither of them had ever applied while picking college courses. For the two years Tifa had managed to go to college before her dad had gotten too sick at least. Her next three days were packed full and she wasn't sure she'd really be able to see everything she wanted to. But she'd try. It was all part of the fun.

Before they even got in the convention center first Aerith – or rather 'Wendy' and shortly thereafter 'Rita' were getting pulled into group picture shoots. There was no such thing as 'going alone' to this kind of thing. Heck, everyone was dressed up in cotton candy colored hair – how many barriers did you really expect there to be? With 'Rita's' trademark closed smile, Tifa posed, fists raised, legs carefully placed to make sure no one was shooting up her skirt. Rita's outfit was pretty simple and not really at all uncomfortable. Short skirt, halter top, suspenders, comfortable sneakers, some evening gown gloves she'd cut the fingers out of, elbow guards and a pair of padded fingerless cardio gloves. Looking at some of the costumes she posed next to, pretending to be fierce and determined as pictures were taken, Tifa was glad she hadn't decided to go 'full kit' as Aerith put it. The person (girl/boy? It was impossible to tell) that was walking around in a Sir Didymus AND Ambrosius costume was sure to get hot soon for instance.

She lost Aerith once they were inside the convention center proper but it was all right. They both had separate things they wanted to see and they'd already figured out meet up times throughout the day so they could enjoy things together too. But Dead Gentleman Productions were showing their latest The Gamers follow up and Tifa just hadn't been able to pass that up, not even for Aerith's BBC Merlin cast discussion. As mentioned before, you never really had to be alone at this kind of thing though and, having grown up knowing how to talk to strangers thanks to her family's business, Tifa soon fell in with a 'dread pirate Roberts' and a Randall and Strutter duo. Sitting with them while watching the movie was like a Mystery Science Theater 3000 reunion and by the time they were let out, Tifa's sides hurt from laughing so much. More photo ops and then everyone was on their way and Tifa was headed for the food court now that her stomach had finally caught up with the rest of her body and woken up.

She still had a hand reflexively over her side while she stood in line at the donut stand, grinning with pleasant left-over laughter as she waited for her order to come up. It did, just as she heard:

"Rita Boltspirit!"

No one called you by your real name here of course. Mostly because no one knew what it really was but also because that was part of the fun. Not being you. Tifa for instance would have stuck the jelly donut in her mouth before turning around. 'Rita' however turned around with a shy, surprised smile and big wine colored eyes (Tifa's eyes were brown but that's what contact lenses were for after all), donut still safely on plate and cup of cocoa in the other hand. Tifa however couldn't help the funny little quirk the edges of her lips developed when she saw who had not only called to her but was cutting a determined and character appropriate 'feisty' way through the crowds of full tables to get to her.


Or rather someone dressed as 'Tini Hugarasi', the sometimes comic relief, sometimes plot device instigator, all the time cheerful and peppy ninja and youngest member of the FLOOD team that Tifa's own 'Rita Boltspirit' belonged to. It was hard not to feel like she'd just run into a friend she hadn't seen in a long time and she beamed, keeping it in 'Rita' fashion by not showing too many teeth.

"Tini!" she let the grin into the way she said the name instead and the other girl, in a very good rendition of the movie's costume, grinned back at her and jumped on her toes a little.

"Oh, you look b-awesome! Beyond Awesome" 'Tini' told her in excitement. "Are you sitting with anyone? You've got to move and sit with us. We've got to get pictures! You look so good!" The fact that at any other time she would have taken the words an entirely different way had Tifa laughing and she nodded.

"Okay" she agreed, remembering to nod like 'Rita'. "I'm not supposed to meet my friend for another hour. And you look really good too. How'd you manage your Conformer?"

"Oh, that's my brother. He works on bikes so he does welding." 'Tini' caught her hand to drag her along in very appropriate 'Tini' fashion, chatting as they wove. Tifa was vaguely aware of the way weaving between packed tables made her hips and therefore butt move in that tight and short skirt and hoped no one else noticed. Then she thought 'to hell with it, I'm not me, I'm Rita' and let her hips swing. Working at a bar she'd learned how to tone down the 'sway' but here, as costumes went, hers wasn't the raciest. Not by any long shot.

"I got him to make it for me. He's here too" 'Tini' was still talking. "He's a virgin" she snuck a snicker over her shoulder at her new found confident and when Tifa's eyes widened, snickered again and beamed as she gave the punch line. "He's never been to one of these things before" she filled in gleefully. "So it's his first time. Be gentle with him."

"Big brother?" Tifa guessed as she carefully settled at the empty table that Tini had led them to, setting down her food first so she could manage her skirt as she slid into the chair and was careful to angle her legs downward. Tini rolled her eyes.

"The world's biggest. But he's cool. He's on leave and he says he wants to see what I do when he's not here."

Tifa caught the flicker of worry and pride in Tini's eyes when she said the word 'leave' and her face softened. She could understand that, sympathetically if not empatheticly. She reached over and touched the girl's hand lightly. People liked being touched on the whole and it was safe for Tifa to do it when it was another girl that wasn't going to jump to conclusions and try to hit her up when she brought dessert and the dinner check.

"I'll try not to ruin him for any others," she teased back and Tini grinned. Then she jumped back up and waved her arms frantically. She was either trying to land a Colonial Viper or her brother was somewhere behind them, but Tifa had just taken her first sip of cocoa and that was one of those things you just didn't interrupt.

"Cloud! I found a 'Rita'!" Despite her steadfast ritual, Tifa almost lost her moment of Zen, barely avoiding snorting hot chocolate out her nose as she choked on a laugh at the way Tini said it. Touching her fingertips to her lips to make sure she hadn't sputtered anything out, she turned her head with a grin.

And ran smack into the bluest, deepest pair of eyes she'd ever seen. For the longest second of her entire life so far, Tifa absolutely lost track of everything else in the world as those practically glowing, tropic ocean eyes met and locked with hers. The rest of him only filtered in after the first wave of being in his eyes had washed over her.

Phoenix Clash….