Yeah! I got around to my new AU and I'm really excited about this one too. I want to point out that this story was very much inspired by a few lines from Lady Gaga's song by the same name, and from seeing TV spots of The Proposal before it came out and then of actually watching the movie(which I loved). I've read this sort of plot a couple of times before, so I won't take full credit for it. I'll just twist it to my liking and add things that many probably haven't seen before. I really wanted to wait until I finished at least one of the two fics I'm working on, but I couldn't. I've had this chapter ready for a few days now, edited and reread too many times to count, so I hope it isn't too disjointed.
Now, a few things before you go on reading. If you're a returning reader from my other AUs, you'll know that I love dramatic, over-the-top plots. If you don't like these types of stories, please don't review just to insult me or the story. Flames will be deleted and/or ignored. I gladly accept concrit as long as it pertains to my grammar, description, character development, repetitiveness, and things that may not be explained clearly. Please don't ask me to change my plot or anything else. I'm here writing for fun mostly, and to get better, and if you do take the time to point out my weaknesses, thank you. Receiving respectful concrit makes a writer grow—and it makes me happy too. That said, please enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VII or any of the characters used in this piece of fan fiction. I am making no money off of them.
If there was one thing he despised about early mornings, it was seeing Zack so cheerful. Really, the man could've been nursing a hangover and he would've still managed to smile and look at the day positively. Now he, also known as Cloud Strife, was used to waking early in the morning, but he wasn't always happy about it. At least until he'd had his morning coffee and jelly donut; sometimes he preferred cinnamon buns.
"Aww, don't I get a smile this morning?" asked Zack when Cloud got into his car after leaving his apartment.
All he received was a rude gesture with a particular finger on Cloud's hand. "I shouldn't have let you talk me into drinking the night before my interview," he muttered.
"You'll feel differently when you get your coffee fix," said Zack offhandedly, ruffling his black spikes with his free hand, while with the other he steered his expensive convertible.
Cloud had to refrain from rolling his eyes at the easy confidence the other man exuded. He wasn't jealous of Zack—well, maybe just a little—but he appreciated having someone like him to talk to. Though Zack was a successful career man in his own right, he still found time to hang out with him, and he insisted on keeping little rituals of hanging out with each other on certain days every week. This particular morning, the same as every Monday, Zack was driving them towards a coffee shop sitting in the middle of Midgar. It was also the one that had the most people in the morning.
"There's this fashion thing going on this Saturday and I think it'll be a good time for you to talk to the agencies to show them your portfolio," Zack said.
Cloud shook his head. "No one will hire me without my degree and I still have one semester to go. I need a job now, more than I need an internship."
"Well, why don't you let me pull my influence to get you a job at The Midgar Times?"
"I can't do that," Cloud said, shaking his head vehemently. "I wanted to try for myself, but your Human Resources guy hated me on sight."
"Yeah, Hojo is a pretty creepy fellow," Zack said as they pulled into the parking lot of the coffee place. "But we can go above him."
Cloud's blond spikes fell in front of his eyes as he shook his head once more. "No, Zack. I'm going to get a job on my own. Just… stop trying to protect me for once in our lives."
Zack just sighed in annoyance and shrugged. "Fine. Just because you're my brother, I have to let you scrape your knees once in a while, huh?"
"Hmm… maybe you're not as dumb as you look," Cloud said with a smirk, ignoring Zack's annoyed grunt.
"You're lucky I like you, otherwise I would've kicked your scrawny ass by now," Zack said, making his way to the surprisingly empty counter. Usually at that hour the place was packed. "Slow morning?" he asked the girl at the register.
She choked for a moment at the sight of him, and her cheeks began to burn in embarrassment as Zack flashed her a wink. "Y-yeah. We're waiting for the morning rush," she finally replied. "What can I get you?"
Cloud rolled his eyes as Zack ordered. He seemed to have that effect on people, mostly girls, but a couple of guys too, once in a while. But who wouldn't look—and he meant in an entirely platonic, brotherly way—at a guy who was six foot three, with perfect black spikes, broad shoulders, and a piercing blue gaze? The special cut suit he was wearing only added to his image of successful playboy. "I'll have a large black coffee and a jelly donut," said Cloud, ignoring the girl's appraising gaze now on him.
He wasn't too behind on the looks department himself, but he didn't usually exude the confidence that Zack did. He was of a shorter stature, but not by much, with haphazard spikes of a golden blond, and eyes a shade lighter than Zack's own. He was also two years younger than Zack's twenty-five. His youthful face often made him appear younger than he was. Zack's family had taken him in when he had been ten and his mother—who had been a friend of Zack's mother—had died. He'd had no other family and had grown up with a guy like Zack for a brother. Sometimes he was grateful, other times it was just plain aggravating.
Zack ordered a cappuccino for himself and they waited. "Are you going with me to the fashion thing or not? It'll be a good place for you to pick up a girl," he said, waggling his eyebrows at the blond. "Or we can work on your moves here," he said, giving the employees at the coffee shop a dashing smile.
Cloud just grunted and gave Zack a shrug. "I'll think about it," he said, taking his coffee and slowly sipping the dark, bitter liquid with near relief. Coffee addictive? Nah. They walked out of the coffee shop just as the usual customers began to trickle in. Outside, he waited for Zack and just sighed when the taller man walked out with a folded napkin and stuffed it into the inside of his suit coat pocket. "Can't you go anywhere without picking up a girl?"
"Hey, shegave me her number, not the other way around," Zack said in his defense. "Come on. We don't want you to be late to your interview. I have a good feeling about this one," he said brightly, getting into his car and driving them the few blocks towards the building standing tall and proud, made almost entirely out of windows.
Cloud suspected that the people working in that building rarely had any privacy with all of the windows he could see from far away. He had high aspirations about working at a place like Edge Style. He wanted to build up a portfolio of photographs that would help get him into important companies looking for photographers with experience. After building up a reputable portfolio and he had gained himself a name, he would begin his own company. He had many hopes and dreams regarding what he wanted to do after he finished with school, but for now he would keep it small and within his grasp.
The only way to get to the point of his career that he wanted was to finish his degree in photography—which he was almost done with—and get a job at a respectful company, like Edge Style—since Midgar Times was out for now—and then work his way up there before moving to The Midgar Times once he had made a name for himself and that Hojo guy wouldn't be the one interviewing him. Zack was currently working there as the head of the production team, and he took care of the graphics department in the newspaper, but Cloud really didn't want people to do things for him, much less his brother.
They stopped in front of the building and Cloud stepped out of Zack's car slowly, still sipping idly on his coffee. "What's your schedule today?" he asked the dark haired man.
"I have to get the social pages ready, since they're due tomorrow. My team is almost done, all we need is to run it by Sephiroth and we're good to go. How about I give you a call at noon to see if you've already gotten the job? We'll celebrate your success with sushi."
Cloud nodded. "I'll let you know," he said, turning to walk towards the massive glass doors.
"Yeah?" asked the blond, turning to look at his brother.
"Good luck," Zack said with a grin and a salute.
Cloud shrugged and offered him a smug look. It quickly died when he ran right into someone, spilling his still hot coffee—but not boiling, thank Ifrit—right onto the front of said person. For a second he just stared at her. Despite the coffee being spilled all over her and his hands, it didn't retract on how attractive his victim was. Had he seen her somewhere before?
The woman let out a choked gasp and looked at him with wide, ruby colored eyes. "I'm sorry!" Cloud exclaimed, hearing a groan from behind him, since Zack had seen the entire thing happen. "Here… I… uh, I have napkins," he said faintly, trying to dab at the brown splotch on the woman's chest and stomach.
"I'm fine," she said, trying to mask her exasperation. Her eyes narrowed dangerously when he dabbed at her chest, and she refrained from slapping him outright, since it seemed like he was really trying to help and not to feel her up—as would've been the case with many jerks she had encountered before. "I said I'm fine," she said more forcefully.
Cloud flushed a light pink when he noticed what it was that he was trying to clean with his napkins and pulled back. "Miss, I'm really sorry."
"It's fine. It's a good thing I keep spare clothes in my office. Just… don't worry about it and please watch where you're going next time?" she asked before turning and walking away, her long curtain of dark hair snapping behind her.
Cloud turned to Zack with a look of helplessness on his face and his brother grinned. "Nice way to make an impression," he called. "You threw your coffee all over the editor-in-chief."
"What?!" Cloud exclaimed, the blood draining from his face. "She'll have me fired on sight!"
Zack waved a hand dismissively. "Don't worry too much about it. She won't fire someone for such a petty reason. Trust me. It's a good thing that you didn't actually spill coffee on yourself. Otherwise we'd have a problem," he said. "Now hurry. Get that scared look off of your face and get to the interview."
Cloud nodded and waved weakly to Zack before stepping into the building and walking towards the front desk. After getting a visitors pass, he made his way towards the second floor, where Human Resources was located. He didn't have a big problem with taking a job as a delivery boy. All he needed at the moment was something to tide him over until he finished school. With a sigh, he entered the office and approached the front desk. "Hello, I'm Cloud Strife and I'm here for a job interview."
"What the hell happened to you?!"
"Some guy ran into me and conveniently dropped his coffee all over me. Now I'll be late for the meeting, and I didn't really start this day too well to begin with."
The young woman in front of her gave her a sympathetic look as they stepped into her office. The room was all whites, blacks, and clear windows. The furniture was all black, while the rest was mostly uninterrupted white. The one thing that saved the office from looking sterile were the blood red roses sitting at various tables all around, and on her desk. The two paintings of loud colors sitting on the wall opposite the large black cherry oak desk also added to Tifa's unique style. Yuffie had to admit though, that her one favorite thing about the décor was the red velvet chair sitting behind said desk. It gave the office a more feminine feel. "So? Spill, Tifa!"
"I've had enough spills for today," Tifa said with a frown.
Yuffie was practically bouncing on the tips of her toes. "Did you finally break up with Loz?"
Tifa pulled out an extra business suit and shirt she always kept on hand from the hidden closet near her bathroom and nodded, giving her an appalled look. "Oh Yuffie, it was the worst break-up in the history of break-ups," she muttered, entering her bathroom to change, but leaving the door opened a crack so that she could continue to talk to Yuffie. "He cried."
Yuffie started, nearly falling over and onto her face. "He cried?" she asked in disbelief.
Tifa finished tucking her shirt into her skirt and walked out, pulling on her blazer; the charcoal gray seemed to bring out the red glint in her eyes. "Yes, he cried. I honestly thought that I'd be the one who would cry, but… I felt a strange sense of relief. I mean, the whole jealousy thing was just too much. I felt… I felt like I was suffocating and it was the best time for the both of us to move on."
Yuffie shook her head. "If only your brother had the same sense to move on," she said with a sigh.
Tifa gave Yuffie a smart look. "Still pining over him, I see. I thought you and Reno had a thing."
"It's just dating, Tifa. Reno has too much of a wandering eye to actually be someone I want to date exclusively. Guess it comes with the whole 'male-model' thing," Yuffie said, handing over a portfolio as they began to walk out of her office. "The press conference for the show was a success."
Tifa nodded in satisfaction—because she'd had total faith in Yuffie's skills, and trusted her to bring the publicity home—and turned to her assistant. "Jessie, do me a great favor and have someone take my clothes to the cleaners? Someone knocked coffee all over them and they're stained and in my bathroom."
"Right away," said Jessie with a smile. "I had got a call from the photographers you hired for the runway show and they all confirmed and will be at the meeting today."
"Thank you, Jessie. Take any messages and I will answer them after the meeting," Tifa said before she and Yuffie disappeared around the corner.
"I hope we get the messenger by tomorrow," Yuffie said as they walked to the conference room. "There are a bunch of packages that need to get out to our sister magazines before the end of the week."
The long haired brunette nodded. "Are we all set to kick off fashion week? The invitations for our runway show were all sent out?" Tifa asked, checking off a few things on her multi-purpose phone.
Yuffie nodded. "I sent out the VIPs and regular invitations last week and almost everyone has confirmed that they're coming for the show. We've got some pretty big names. Oh, and your brother added a few extra at the last minute."
"But he didn't tell me anything," Tifa said in annoyance. She just shrugged it off. "I guess he probably invited people he wants to do business with. Just make sure to have the ones who haven't confirmed called. We need their answers before Wednesday. Do you know if Vincent is here yet?"
Yuffie nodded and her face took on a dreamy note. "He was here earlier than other days, negotiating still negotiating the costs of the 'all-green' decorations for the show and making sure that we aren't over our budget. The providers wanted to get smart at the last minute and they tried to up the price. Last I heard, your brother had gotten them to reduce from the original price."
"Good," Tifa said with a nod, turning into the conference room. She was the last person they had needed to begin the meeting, and her brother was glaring at her from across the large conference table, his red eyes narrowed slightly. Tifa took a seat and Yuffie sat to her right, preparing the list of their sponsors for the show.
Yuffie felt her eyes roam towards the man sitting at the other end of the table. He was tall, handsome, and well dressed, with short, dark silky hair and passionate crimson eyes. Said eyes glanced at her and Yuffie casually gazed at the documents in her hands, pretending that she hadn't just been ogling him. Though he was handsome and related to Tifa, Yuffie found that the only similarity between the two was the red of their eyes, even when they happened to be very different shades. That had an explanation though. Tifa and Vincent only shared their father and came from different mothers.
"Oww," Yuffie hissed when someone kicked her under the table. Her brown eyes snapped towards Tifa and her friend slash boss gave her a pointed look before looking at Vincent. Yuffie followed her eyes towards the other edge of the table and Yuffie realized that everyone was looking at her.
"Miss Kisaragi, the list of sponsors?" Vincent asked her dryly.
"Oh, sorry," she muttered, standing and walking towards the head of the table. She began to rattle off the brand names of perfumes, popular designers, makers of vehicles, handbag designers, and many others who had donated in order for them to advertise at the party as well.
Tifa watched the ease in which Yuffie spoke and smirked to herself. Though Yuffie could be a tad clumsy at times, it seemed a sort of switch was thrown when she stood in front of a group of people to pitch her ideas and sell her services as PR of Edge Style. It was obvious that the smaller woman had been fantasizing about Tifa's brother a few seconds before. It was an impossible dream, Tifa knew, because Vincent had a girlfriend that he had been in love with for many months now. Tifa didn't particularly like Lucrecia, but so far the woman had been nothing but nice and polite with her. It made her suspicious.
Though Yuffie was a very pretty girl, just shy of her twentieth birthday, Lucrecia was a supermodel, and one of the most famous faces at the moment. Vincent had been fawning over her for some time now and Tifa realized that her brother was starting to look for a woman to start a life and a family with. She may not have liked Lucrecia, but if Vincent was happy…
By the time the meeting ended, Tifa was assured that their fashion party—complete with a runway show, and open bar—would be total success. Yuffie waved at her as she walked out of the conference room and Tifa stayed behind to talk to Vincent. "You were late," Vincent said once they were alone.
"I had a run-in with some guy, and he ended up spilling his coffee all over me," Tifa said. "You know I'm never late, so it won't happen again."
"Father wants us to have dinner with him on Friday," Vincent said casually, walking with her towards their offices, which were separate corners from each other. "You've cancelled in the last minute the last two times."
Tifa nodded and let out a heavy sigh. Her relationship with Grimoire had started out late; she hadn't known that the man who had been married to her mother hadn't been her real father until she had been seventeen. It had been a real blow to her heart and her confidence, realizing that her mother had hidden the truth from her for so long. Grimoire had been her mother's first love, but he had left her pregnant in Nibelheim without knowing it. Her mother had then married a boy from Nibelheim—apparently he had known that Tifa hadn't been his daughter—and had started her life anew, with another man's baby on the way.
Grimoire wasn't a bad man, and he hadn't known about her until her mother had died and had left a letter for him, explaining to him that Tifa was really his daughter. She had met him at her mother's funeral and had found out the same night that he was her real father. After a particularly unpleasant previous two years with the man she had thought her real father, she had left everything behind in Nibelheim, moving to Midgar with Grimoire. She had then met her half-brother, Vincent, and she was glad that he had accepted her willingly and kindly. She'd always wanted an older brother. If only she'd had him in her life when she truly had needed him…
Tifa cleared her throat and looked towards Vincent, who had been awaiting her answer. "I'll go. You know that I don't cancel on purpose. It's just that work…"
"Preaching to the choir," Vincent murmured. "But I at least find time to have a personal life. I wish you'd do the same," he said more firmly.
Tifa smiled. She loved to see Vincent go into 'big-brother' mode. It was endearing and it made her feel like she did have a family: something she hadn't felt since her mother had passed. "I'll take that into consideration. Now, about Yuffie—"
"Tifa, don't start," Vincent interrupted. "I already told you that I am not interested. Besides, have you forgotten about Lucrecia?"
"Of course I haven't," Tifa muttered in annoyance. She couldn't understand why it was that Vincent was always short about anything that had to do with Yuffie. Did he not like her? Was it a whole 'hate at first sight' thing? Tifa would have to do more investigating on that, since Yuffie was her best friend and all.
"Then do not bring this up again," Vincent said in a quietly threatening voice.
Tifa had had many years of practice on ignoring Vincent when he was trying to be threatening to her. Despite the fact that they had met face to face when she had been seventeen and he had been twenty-three, she had been his annoying little sister for the first few months they had lived together. Grimoire had attempted to spoil her rotten until Tifa herself had put an end to it. She had worked to buy her own things during her last year of high school, and then had worked through college, even going as far as to earn a scholarship and avoid having Grimoire pay her tuition. Despite wanting to be independent from her real father, he had bought her a car for her eighteenth birthday and had practically begged her to accept it.
Now at twenty-two, she was one of the youngest editor-in-chiefs in the city. Edge Style was under her control—even though Grimoire was the still the majority owner of the magazine—and she had worked to be in the position in the company that she was in. Vincent handled the executive side of the magazine and sometimes even handled the main events where they would promote the magazine as well.
Tifa brushed back her bangs from her eyes and gave her brother a critical look. "Do you honestly think that a runway model on the top of her career is going to want to settle down with you now?" she asked smartly.
Vincent gave her an annoyed look at the fact that she was ignoring his plea to leave the topic of Yuffie alone. It wasn't that he hated her, he just didn't want to lead her on when he would never take her seriously. He was in love with Lucrecia and Yuffie needed to get over her puppy love. "Tifa… you honestly think that a nineteen-year-old is a much better option? I'm almost ten years older than she is!"
"Love has no age," Tifa said with a smile.
Vincent let out something that could only be described as a snort and opened the door to his office. "Find yourself a man to worry about and then we'll talk," he said, giving her a smug smile before entering and closing the door.
Tifa just shook her head. It seemed that stubbornness ran in the family. She turned towards her office and smiled at Jessie. "Any word on the messenger?"
"Yes, Tifa. I got a call from Mrs. Elmyra down in HR and she said that she hired a guy. He'll start tomorrow though, since they need to finish all of the paperwork and the drug tests today."
Tifa refrained from sighing once again. It seemed like her day would be full of sighs and she could already feel the exhaustion creeping in. And it wasn't even ten in the morning yet. She was in for a long day of working with her reporters and with the Graphics team. "Okay, Jessie, thank you. Would you mind contacting the Junon Model Agency? I need to talk to Aerith about the pictures we're going to feature in our next issue."
"Ooh… the ones that she took out in Wutai of Genesis?" she asked excitedly.
"Those exactly. Aerith told me that she would be here in Midgar for the fashion show, but I need to get into contact with her before the actual show," Tifa said.
"Right away, Miss Valentine!"
"Call me Tifa, Jessie," Tifa reminded before stepping into her office. Sometimes it still felt odd to be called Valentine when she had spent seventeen years having Lockhart as a last name. But Grimoire had insisted and since the man who had married her mother—and whom she had presumed had been her real father—had hurt her beyond anything she had ever imagined, she had gladly changed her last name. Though old man Lockhart had not hurt her physically, he had scarred her emotionally over something she had brought onto herself when she had been fifteen. It was something that pained her every time she thought of it, and Tifa had a feeling that it always would. It was like a wound that would never heal and never be forgotten.
She needed to stop spacing out. Today was not a day to reminisce. She had too much work to do, and tomorrow she had a messenger boy to break-in. Sitting at her fancy, black oak desk, Tifa picked up her phone and pressed the blinking red button. It really wasn't a wonder that Vincent was right and she had no personal life.
Cloud had been dreading the moment he finally came face to face with the boss. He was already nearing the end of the week of his new job and he was already known for being quick and effective, something that had been twisted into innuendo by many of the women working there that he had already met. He didn't mind, he was highly aware that he wasn't bad looking—though he'd always imagined that he didn't even reach Zack's level—and the ladies went out of their way to flirt with him.
Stuffing the various envelopes and a few small packages into his messenger bag Cloud sighed and made his way towards the elevator. The Shinra building seemed to be one of the places he would be frequenting the most and he had to admit that it wasn't too bad. There were a couple of assholes he had met about two days ago, but on the upside he would be delivering a few things to Zack today.
It seemed that the magazine would be providing them some images of the location where the upcoming fashion party would be held so that it could be printed in Saturday's edition of the paper. As he waited for the elevator to open, he nearly ran right into a girl with big green eyes as she began to exit. She smiled shyly at him and expelled an urgent apology. "That's okay," he assured her, his eyes moving down when something caught his eye.
"You know… if I were any other type of girl I'd be offended that you're staring at my chest, but I can see you're not… not really. You're a photographer?" she asked, her eyes glittering like the most expensive and beautiful jades he had ever seen.
Cloud nodded and had the grace to look embarrassed. "I am. Just need one more semester to get my degree. Is that the new Chimera 3200?"
She gave him a brilliant smile and nodded. "I've only had it for two hours but already I love it. I'm Aerith, by the way," she said, extending her hand to shake his.
Cloud smiled and shook her small pale hand in a firm grip. "Cloud," he offered. "I guess I missed my elevator."
Aerith gave him a discomfited look and her cheeks colored a little. "And… it's my fault. Hey, what time do you go to lunch?"
"Uh…" he floundered for a few seconds. Wasn't it usually up to the guy to ask a girl out? "I get my lunch break at twelve and have an hour before I need to get back, then I come back and leave at four before rushing to school." At the amused look on her face he flushed slightly. "And you didn't need to hear my life story," he muttered.
Aerith giggled and shook her head. "It's perfectly fine. How about we meet here at twelve and we can have lunch together while we discuss where you're going with your career once you get your degree?" she asked sweetly.
Cloud was amazed that she was offering to hear him out. "Um… sure, that sounds great," he said. "Are you a reporter?" he asked curiously.
"She shook her head. I'm a photographer," she looked at her watch. "Who is now late for a meeting with the chief," she said, biting her lip. "I have some pictures I need to pitch for her for next month's article of Genesis Rhapsodos."
Then it dawned on Cloud exactly who she was. "You're… you're Aerith Gainsborough?" he asked dumbly. She was a legend amongst the photographers for being the first person to photograph the elusive red furred creatures with the flaming tails that lived in a deserted part of Cosmo Canyon. She had been the first to see them up close and get a snapshot of them. No one else had been able to do the same since. She had an impressive array of projects that had made her famous at the age of twenty-four.
She gave him a bashful smile and nodded. "The one and only," she said. "But we'll talk about it later Cloud; I don't want to keep Tifa waiting," she said before waving and turning to go. Before she got far, she turned and called his name.
Cloud turned and felt himself smirk when she caught a snapshot of him with her camera. She winked at him before taking off in a run, leaving Cloud smiling behind her. Well, his week was certainly looking up for him, and he just knew that if he told Zack, his brother would tease him and prod him until he asked her out. Maybe it was best if he left this conversation alone and told Zack nothing. Cloud rubbed a hand over his blond spikes and pressed the button for the elevator once more.
The only thing that echoed in his mind for a moment was the name Tifa… he would figure out why when he had a chance.
"With this skirt, I need to watch out when bending over," Yuffie commented as she and Tifa took a look around their completed work. The hall where the party and the fashion show would take place had already begun to fill with reporters, actors, actresses, designers, and buyers. They had gone with a jungle type theme, especially since the designers for the runway show would be using animal prints and greens.
Tifa turned to look at her friend and colleague and realized that she was right. Yuffie had put on cute puffed out black skirt far shorter than should've been allowed. The material glittered with stones at any angle the light hit it, and it exposed a long line of leg. Despite the fact that Yuffie was a bit lacking in the height department, the black, knee-high boots helped to add four inches too. "Why would you be bending over in the first place?" Tifa asked her smartly.
Yuffie snorted. "What if I drop something?"
"Then there will be a gentleman there to pick it up," Tifa said with a grin, winking.
"You're right," said Yuffie. "The both of us are too damned hot to pick up anything we may drop ourselves," she said as they began to walk towards the hall where the runway had been set up. They were surrounded by a jungle all around, and Yuffie had to give it to the people who had set it up, they had done a fantastic job. "Is Vincent's girlfriend going to be in this one?"
Tifa shrugged. "I suppose she is. Every designer wants her to model their clothes."
A few reporters walked over to them and gave them a brief interview regarding the show and what was expected of the magazine in the future. Despite Yuffie's cool and sometimes immature attitude, she always reverted to a professional tone, the way she did in the meetings. She knew how to handle and control publicity in their favor. When the reporters walked off, Tifa walked with Yuffie towards their front row seats as people began to trickle in and were seated by attendants with lists of names in their hands.
Crossing her legs, Tifa realized that she would have to watch out for the way she was sitting herself. She had opted for a little black dress from the same designer Yuffie had gotten her skirt from. The material clung to her shapely body and glittered with stones as she moved. It was shorter than anything she had donned before, and once Vincent saw her Tifa could just imagine his disapproving "big brother" look, but she didn't really care. She felt especially sexy in the dress, and having a pair of glittering stilettos to go with her choice of attire was a bonus because they weren't as uncomfortable as she would've thought. Aside from that, her make-up was dark and centered around her eyes to make them look a deeper shade of garnet, and her hair was in long dark waves, spilling down her back and shoulders.
Unfortunately for Tifa, amidst meetings for the next issue of the magazine and meetings for the fashion party, she hadn't gotten the chance to meet the new messenger boy. All she had heard about him was gossip from both Jessie and Yuffie, and many other secretaries from different floors. With hair like a golden halo, a face to die for, and eyes like the clear blue sky of Costa del Sol, not to mention an ass that wouldn't quit; Yuffie had told her that the description had been from Jessie. The last description of him had made her break into an unladylike snort of laughter. But Tifa supposed that the females of the building enjoyed embellishing the looks of every new man that stepped into their building. Eventually she would meet this "hot blond" and see for herself what the fuss was all about.
"If this show didn't put our asses on the line, I'd throw some butter or water onto the runway," Yuffie muttered from beside her.
Tifa let out a small laugh despite herself and just shook her head, looking up when Vincent stepped into the room and began to make his way towards her. He motioned towards someone behind him and Tifa stood to allow him to introduce her to his guests or partners, she didn't know yet who was with him. She was still smiling when Vincent moved aside and allowed her a glimpse of his guests, but the smile soon fell and transformed into a blank expression.
"This is my sister, Tifa Valentine. Tifa, this is an associate and old acquaintance of mine, Rufus Shinra," Vincent said professionally.
Rufus' eyes focused on her immediately, and she could tell that he was surprised to see her, but it only showed through the cool blue of his eyes. Tifa reluctantly offered her hand for him to shake it and didn't miss the way his fingers brushed lightly across her knuckles when he began to draw back. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Shinra," she forced out, avoiding Vincent's eyes in fear of what he might see.
"A pleasure to finally meet you face to face, Miss… Valentine," Rufus murmured in a silky voice.
Tifa inwardly grit her teeth and wondered when Vincent had met Rufus. He'd called him an old acquaintance and that meant that they knew each other for a while now. Vincent's voice broke through her staring contest with the haughty man. "And this is Elena, his wife," Vincent continued, motioning towards a beautiful blonde woman standing behind him.
With a blond bob haircut and sharp brown eyes, it wasn't a surprise to see why Rufus had married her. At the sound of her name, the woman smiled courteously and held out her hand towards Tifa. "I read your magazine religiously," she said excitedly.
Intelligent and clear-headed, not the way I would've imagined you would pick your wife, Tifa thought inwardly about Rufus' choice in a woman he'd choose to bear heirs for the family fortune and name. The man was money and power, and money and power usually attracted the brainless bimbos. "Tifa Valentine," she said with a smile, shaking her hand.
"I'm a really big fan of you and your magazine, and I really enjoyed the issue on winter fashion. I saw the most adorable handbags there! Also, would you be able to tell me where I can find a certain necklace I saw on one of the models here? I've looked for it in various places, but... I... Sorry," she murmured, her cheeks coloring when she realized she was rambling. Rufus was giving her an annoyed look as well.
"Well, I'm very flattered that you're a fan of my magazine. I'll have to look into making an issue on the wives of important business men in this city," Tifa said, all professional.
Elena's warm, brown eyes widened and she nervously pushed her smooth blonde hair behind her ear. "Oh, oh... but I'm not a model. I'm more of a business woman myself. I guess it's one of the things that attracted my husband first," she said, taking on a slightly smug tone.
Tifa refrained from scoffing at her words. It had been more than likely a marriage of name and status, she mused. Rufus' father woudn't have let him marry for something as insignificant as love. "Right. We should have lunch so that I can hear all about your story. And I must point out that you have excellent taste in fashion," said Tifa, watching Elena blush. Rufus was still giving her a curious look, but he said nothing more to her.
"I'd really enjoy that," Elena said in a quiet voice, as if she were attempting to keep from squealing.
The brunette handed over her card. "Contact my assistant at the office and she'll schedule a lunch date. We'll talk about that necklace you're looking for then. If you can, find pictures so that I can help you as best I can. In any case, it was very nice to meet you, Mrs. Shinra," Tifa said calmly.
"Please, it's just Elena," said the blonde woman rapidly, unable to hide her happiness.
"I hope you enjoy the show," Tifa said with a nod before taking a seat and fiddling nervously with the hem of her dress. Vincent took a seat next to her, and on his other side sat Rufus. She could feel his eyes on her every time he turned to speak to her brother, but all she could do was attempt to ignore him.
"Know him?" Yuffie whispered.
Tifa just nodded. "From a past that I won't be able to forget," she replied just as quietly as her eyes focused on the runway when the lights began to dim. Might as well not think about it now. It would ruin an evening that had taken too much time, money, and work. Rufus Shinra would not come in to disrupt her life the way he had years ago. He was nothing but an unpleasant memory in her life now.
Watching Zack put the moves on various models was not Cloud's idea of a fun night. At least not for him. But as he stood near the bar, holding a coke and rum, he realized that it hadn't been so bad at all. Having a front row seat to a runway show had been nice eye candy, and he had certainly received many phone numbers already himself. The only downside to it all was that most of the models were taller than he was, especially in the high heels.
He didn't mind though, there were a few out there his height, and though he had gotten passed the blushing-when-a-girl-talked-to-him phase, he realized that he didn't want to be one of those one night stand types of guys. He actually enjoyed being in a relationship, except that his last one had ended on a rather sour note with accusations of cheating from his ex-significant other.
Cloud sipped his drink and shook off the annoyed feeling creeping up on him. He knew his boss, the woman he had spilled his coffee over, would be there tonight. He had been feeling a little anxious to see her and for the life of him couldn't figure out why. Would she fire him? Would she even remember him? There was a tap on his shoulder and he turned, greeted by a sunny smile and glittering green eyes.
"I thought it was you that I saw!" Aerith said cheerfully. "Look Cloud, this is my cousin Cissnei. Ciss, this is Cloud, the handsome photographer I was telling you about," she said, turning to a small woman next to her with auburn hair almost the same shade as Aerith's.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Cissnei and I hope you know that Aerith hasn't shut up about you since she met you," she said with a serene sort of smile.
Cloud had the grace to blush and it seemed his color matched Aerith's. "It's a professional attraction," Aerith said rapidly. "I really loved seeing your work and I hope that you think of taking an internship with me once you have your degree," she offered.
Cloud smiled at her offer. "Thank you for the opportunity. If it weren't for work, I would be willing to take it now," he said with a nod. His half-smile turned into a grimace when he felt Zack come up next to him. "Uh… this is my brother, Zack," he said lamely.
"You must be Aerith," he said to the green-eyed girl.
She nodded and gave him a dazzling smile. "And you're Zack. I've heard so much about you," Aerith replied.
Zack grinned and turned on the bashful charm. "I hope it's been good things, especially since I'm actually a really bad boy," he said, winking. Blue eyes turned to regard the woman next to her when she rolled her eyes and gave him a bored look. "And you are…?"
"Oh, this is Cissnei, my cousin. She's a reporter for the Midgar Times, though I can't figure out why you haven't met before today if you work there too. Maybe it's been because she travels abroad and has been back from a month long stay in Wutai," Aerith said excitedly.
Just the fact that she wasn't melting for his charm and was looking uninterested made his curiosity rise to the challenge. He took her hand, noticing how small it was compared to his, and pressed a kiss to her knuckles. "Were you the one who did a special three-part report on the customs and legends of Wutai?"
Cissnei nodded and gave him a mildly interested look. "I was. Did you read it?"
"How about I get you a drink and we can discuss Leviathan's legend in a deeper context?" Zack asked smartly. The brunette woman was still giving him an unconvinced look, but she had found Wutai's culture fascinating and if the man in front of her wasn't the total airhead she had believed in the beginning, then she would gladly have an intelligent conversation with him.
Aerith smiled as she watched Cissnei walk off with Zack. "I think they would be perfect for each other," she said with a devilish little grin. Her eyes grew a little wide when she caught sight of someone across the room.
Cloud nodded and followed her gaze to see her staring at a tall man nervously. But he wasn't just any man. He was the Midgar Times editor himself, Sephiroth. The man was all poise and professionalism wrapped up in an elegant designer suit. What had Cloud's curiosity though was the way he was looking at Aerith and how the woman beside him was looking flustered. He smirked. "I'm thinking we'll talk later?" he asked her, making her jump and look at him as if she had forgotten he was there.
"Right," Aerith said. "I'll call you for lunch?" At his nod, Aerith excused herself and disappeared in the throng of people enjoying the party, the music, and the drinks. Taking a few more sips of his drink, he began to make his way around them, ignoring the offers of a drink or a dance from both women and men. It didn't bother him that he got hit on by guys anymore. He just brushed them off and politely turned them down. He was a lover of women, through and through.
He was rounding a particularly large green plant set for the environment of the jungle theme when he nearly ran right into the person had he been dreading to see again. Her eyes sparked with recognition, but as the man who had thrown his coffee on her earlier in the week. "Hello," he blurted.
She gave him a dubious glance and then offered a hesitant smile. "Hi. You're the coffee guy, aren't you?" she asked.
Cloud gave her an embarrassed look and nodded. "I'm sorry. I was a bit nervous that morning. I was on my way to a job interview," he said rapidly, amazed that the she had even understood his rushed words.
Tifa had to smile. He was terribly cute, with big blue eyes and blond, spiky hair. Not to mention dressed in black slacks, and a nice dress shirt that was made to his exact cut and the color that was a shade darker than his eyes. "I hope you got the job," she said pleasantly.
That solved the mystery of whether or not she knew who he truly was. Cloud offered a small smile. "I did. Thank you." And you can take it away too, he thought anxiously, but decided to play it cool. It was then that he noticed what she was wearing and he couldn't help staring at her long, shapely legs. He cleared his throat and looked back towards the bar. "Would you… join me for a drink?"
Tifa gave a look around, as if searching for someone and then nodded, smiling. "Of course," she said, taking his arm.
Cloud led them both towards the bar slowly, and he felt his hands begin to sweat a little as they took seats at the stools and ordered something to drink. "Listen, I'm very sorry about the coffee episode. I'm not usually that clumsy."
Her gaze was soft as she looked at him. "Nothing to worry about," she said honestly. "Lucky for me, I always keep spare clothing in my office." They lapsed into an awkward silence and Tifa found herself inspecting the man in front of her. He was young, maybe her age, and handsome, but he seemed a bit nervous to be talking to her. She sighed inwardly; she supposed that being successful and the editor of a major magazine could intimidate some men from showing interest in her. There was something about him that screamed to her memories, something in her childhood. "I feel like I've met you before," she said.
Cloud smirked. "If I knew you better, I'd be able to tell if that's a pick up line or not," he said casually.
She laughed and her cheeks colored a little. "Isn't that what the girl usually tells a guy? But honestly, I feel like we've met before, a long time ago," Tifa said thoughtfully, leaning towards him so that she could inspect his eyes up close.
Cloud nodded, wondering what it was about her that was giving off that familiarity vibe. There was something about her smile, and the kindness of her eyes that was holding his attention in a way that hadn't happened before. It was becoming increasingly easier to talk to her, despite the fact that she was his boss and didn't know about it just yet. "I get that feeling too. Where did you grow up?" he asked.
Tifa's memories took her back to her hometown, to a time she wished to forget at that very moment. She was in her element; fashion. She was successful, educated, and pretty, but no matter what she did and how far she went, her past always managed to catch up with her. "I… I'd rather not talk about that right now," she said, lightly touching his arm. "It's just not something that brings back good memories for me."
"I understand," Cloud replied with a reassuring smile.
"You know, before we even start, we need to introduce ourselves. I don't know your name," Tifa started.
Before he could say anything though, pain exploded across his face and he heard Tifa let out a gasp as he found himself on the ground, staring up at a man with citrine green eyes and silver hair. Tifa turned a glare to the man who had attacked him, and Cloud had a feeling that he had overstepped some kind of boundary with Tifa, despite her being his boss.
Great, the things he had to go through for a pair of nice legs… and his boss. Zack would be proud of the fact that he had managed to get himself into trouble so early in the night.
I hope that for a start it wasn't too confusing. If I get anything wrong about their jobs and what they entail, please feel free to correct me. I looked up some stuff about editors, PRs, and photographers, but I haven't had much time to know the specifics of each position.
Now, about the pairings and environment of the actual story. I have Tifa as the main editor of an important fashion magazine, Cloud is the messenger boy, and he's just been hired to work for Tifa. This will eventually be a VincentYuffie story too, but it'll start out as a VinceLucrecia. I'm going to try my very best to not bash characters in this story, so Lucrecia and Rufus may seem like the bad guys, but they won't be. Also, other pairings you can expect to see at different points of this fic are SephirothAerith, ZackCissnei, and some possible RenoYuffie, RufusTifa, and some ReeveYuffie in the far off future, but not enough to disrupt my favorite pairings. Also, as you can see, I made Vincent and Tifa half-siblings. I just hope no one has a hard time wrapping their minds around that bit.
I really do hope everyone enjoyed this one, since I'm still working on the plot. Thank you so very much for reading and don't forget to drop me a note to see if it's worth continuing. If I take a while to update this one, just be aware that it's because I'm still working out the plot, but chapter two is done and all I have to do is proof-read it before posting. Also, I'm working on the next chapter of "Believe," which is more than half-done, and it should be out this week as well. Have an awesome week people!