A/N: New story, yay!! Heheh...Yeah, I decided that I needed a change of style from my other stuff. Plus the idea just popped in my head and it wouldn't stop until I started writing it. :)
This is a first time for me, writing Cloud in 1st person, so I hope it comes off well. Also, this is more of the jaded, sarcastic Cloud that we see at the beginning of the game. Btw, I know next to nothing about law. I'm doing research as I write so that I'm not completely off base, but don't expect this to be super accurate. In any case, drop a review and let me know what you think. Thanks!
Disclaimer: Oops. Forgot to put this in the first time around. Anyhow, all characters, objects, places, etc that have some relation to Final Fantasy VII is property of Square Enix. Just because I'm writing a law fic doesn't mean you should try and see what happens if you sue me. I'd cry.
"Pro bono publico" – For the public good
My head snaps up when the thick manila folder slaps soundly against my desk.
"So…I have a job for you." Dark blue eyes sparkle menacingly and I know I'm in trouble. It always means trouble when Zack smirks like that. And when it comes to Zack Fair, trouble means trouble.
Warily, my eyebrows lift slightly as I stop scribbling notes on the current case I'm working on to articulate slowly, "What kind of job?"
"Excellent question, my good man!" I really don't like it when Zack gets that look on his face, which unfortunately, is too often for my mental sanity. "You're short on pro bono hours."
"Well, I have a case for you to make up the quota. Mother fighting for child custody so it should be relatively easy compared to—" he glanced at the papers on my desk and I didn't miss it when he tried to hold back a laugh "—defending Yuffie Kisaragi for shoplifting. Again."
I resist the urge to rub my temples in aggravation. It's not that I don't like doing charity work; it's just that it's so…so….so time consuming and pointless. I'm a lawyer because I thought it would rake in a good income for me (oh and the whole defending the common good thing is pretty cool too), not because I wanted to solve social injustice—after all, if there wasn't social injustice, I'd be out of a job, not that I would ever say that out loud. I have a set of very finely tuned self-preservation instincts, thank you very much.
And one of those instincts includes being extra cautious whenever Zack is so eager for me to take a case. He may be my boss, but I'll be damned if I let him sucker me into something stupid.
"Zack, the year has barely begun. I have plenty of time to make up my quota."
"True, but why put off something for tomorrow if you can do it today?" I shoot him a deadpan look in return and he finally concedes. "Alright, alright. It's a friend of Aeris."
Ah. That explains everything. She's got him so whipped I wonder if there's anything he wouldn't do for her. It takes much effort to school the smirk out of my expression.
"I would do it myself, but I've got my hands full with all my other cases that I don't have the time. You're the best guy I've got after, well, me and you know I absolutely cannot let just anyone do it since it's Aeris' friend and all. So, Cloud, buddy, nicest guy in the whole wide world, whaddya say?"
I eye the innocent flair he's injected into his expression warily and I know it's bad for my health, but I give in anyway. Damn the guilty part of my conscience that keeps reminding me that without Zack, I'd be out on the streets still. With a sigh, I snatch up the folder from my desk. "Fine! I'll take it. After this case is over, remind me why I work for you. Or why I'm friends with you at all, for that matter."
The last part rolls off of him like water and I realize all he probably heard with his selective hearing is the part where I agree.
"Great! Thanks Cloud. You won't regret it. Tifa's a great gal. Now, I have an appointment for lunch with a client, so I'll be off now," Zack spewed off quickly as he made a rapid retreat.
More than suspicious by now, I flip open the folder and scowl immediately.
"Damn it Zack! Get back here! What kind of case did you give me?!"
Of course, by then, Zack was long gone and I was stuck. No, not just stuck. My whole career might as well end now. So much for Zack's "easy" case. Too bad he forgot to mention that the woman's ex-husband and the person she was fighting for custody of her son over just so happened to be Rufus Shinra. As in THE Rufus Shinra—the same one who is president of the world's largest energy company and donates a large—large—sum of money to our very own law firm annually. And yes, the very same one that could shoot my career to hell if I ever work a case against him.
Memo to self: I hate Zack.
I flip through the files, most of it simple background information. The mother and, now, my client, is named Tifa Lockhart, twenty-seven years old, born in Nibelheim but moved to Midgar in middle school, graduated with high honors in high school, but never got a college degree. No criminal record, not even a parking ticket, and medical records are clean of drug and alcohol abuse. That's good. Then I see her occupation.
"You have got to be freaking kidding me."
Bartender. She's a freaking bartender. She's a freaking bartender whose ex-husband is a multi-millionaire and owns half the world. She had better be some good friend of Aeris, or else I'm going to kill Zack. A thousand times over. Actually, I might just kill him anyway.
With a sigh, I pull out my cellular phone and dial a familiar number. I wait the customary four rings before inputting the "3#" option. Another pause and then I press "4#" finally "2#" before it finally gets me through to who I'm looking for. I'll never understand why Vincent bothers to go through the trouble of coding his messages so that only people who know what they're looking for will get their calls to go through to him. But, strange as he is, he's also my best informant.
His voice is deep…and creepy, in my humble opinion. "Valentine speaking."
"Vincent, it's Cloud. I need a favor."
"Can you look up anything you can get on a Tifa Lockhart? That's H-A-R-T, no E. And just for good measure, try to get some dirt on Rufus Shinra. Payment as usual. Thanks."
I hang up. Talking on the phone with Vincent is always a little disconcerting. The man is quiet as a shadow in person; on the phone, it's like he doesn't exist. I guess that's why he's so good at what he does though. Who knows how many cases he's helped me win, simply on the merit of his being able to get information no one else can. Sometimes I wonder if he does it legally, but most times I try not to think about it. The important thing is that he gets me what I need. Anything outside of that, I couldn't care less.
I make another call, this time using the office telephone. Time to make contact with my new client.
"Is this Miss Lockhart?"
"Yes. How can I help you?"
"Well, Miss Lockhart, the question should be how can I help you. My name is Cloud Strife and I'm your lawyer."