A/N: This ficlet is in no way related to my previous Final Fantasy 7 fics, and is in no way related to those to come...but I am using the same names for some characters because I suck at thinking up new ones. Deal with it.
DISCLAIMER: I DON'T OWN FF7. I only own my OCs and the laptop I'm working from.
It was disconcerting to see the number of odd-looking people that were crammed into such a small place, he thought to himself as they walked around searching for a seat. Looking up at the small group of teenagers in front of him, he sighed and resigned himself to the fact that this wasn't a horrifying nightmare he would wake up from. This was reality.
Remembering the conversations from the night before, he let out another sigh. He had forgotten that the event was happening that weekend, although his and Cid's sons and Vincent's daughter hadn't shut up about it for months. They had been planning—scheming was a better word, really—for the event and saving their gil for even longer. He'd been suckered into joining them the night before.
"Cloud, don't be such a freakin' baby," Cid had said over the phone. "It's not really all that bad, once you get used to seein' all those freaks."
Tifa's argument for dumping this on him had been the most logical. "Yuffie and Vincent are in Costa del Sol right now, so they can't; Cid and Shera volunteered last year, so it's not their turn; and I have a bar to run and customers that will be angry if they don't get their drinks from the pretty barmaid, so I'm stuck here. You're the only one that's free, since you don't work on the weekends anymore. Besides, just think of this as a way to get to know your son better, to take an interest in the things he likes. At least he wants you to be a part of his life, Cloud." There were time when he hated the effect Tifa's batted eyelashes had on him. This was one of those times.
Yuffie had at least been honest with him. "Why do you think me and Vince planned our romantic getaway this weekend, Spike?"
"Dad, over here!" his son yelled, waving his arm enthusiastically. "It's getting ready to start!"
"I'm coming, Zack." As they took their seats, he noticed a figure in a striking costume walking past him. He turned around to get a better look. The lights were dimmed in the same moment, but not before he knew where he'd seen those clothes. It was a Shin-Ra infantryman uniform. Why would a teenager be dressed up as a Shin-Ra infantryman?
A stage light focused on the man in front of them as he began to speak. He was wearing a costume, too, but unlike most of the people around him, he was old enough to know better. "Welcome, everyone, to the seventh annual Midgar-Con cosplay masquerade!" After the screaming of the crowd had settled the man began to speak again. "You guys know how this works, right? You see the cosplayers in all their awesomeness and you vote to see who wins bragging rights and the title 'Best Cosplay' for a year. But," he added quickly, "this year, we have a slight change. This year, not only will you get the title and bragging rights, but you will also receive," he paused for dramtic effect and Cloud rolled his eyes, "a five hundred gil cash prize!"
The crowd went wild, but Cloud could only stare. Five hundred gil for wearing a costume? These people were insane. He leaned over to the girl sitting next to him. "Amaiia, please tell me you guys signed up for this. I mean, five hundred gil is a lot…"
"No," she sighed. "We are doing a skit tomorrow, though. Hey, do you think you could videotape it for us? That would be really great, because then we could show it to Mom and Dad and Tifa, oh! and we'd have to show Reno because he would get a kick out of it, but Rufus wouldn't appreciated, seeing as we're gonna make fun of him, so—"
He tuned out somewhat after that, pulling out his phone and sending a mass text message. You all owe me big time.
I know, was Tifa's reply.
Suck it up, Cloud, was Yuffie's.
Cid's reply, which was his personal favorite, said, Pussy.
He played a few games on his phone, but soon grew bored. He looked around absently, hoping to find something remotely interesting to do. The announcer caught his attention when he introduced the next set of cosplayers. "Now please welcome… SOLDIER first class Zack Fair and Aerith Gainsborough from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7!"
Cloud looked up sharply as the crowd went wild again. "Nathaniel, hand me the camera! They're up now," he heard his son say.
"You know them?" Cloud asked, his voice squeaking somewhat.
"Met 'em last year," Cid's son replied, handing over his digital camera. "They cosplayed Reno and Rude an' did this freakin' hilarious skit. They're from Junon, I think. We're havin' lunch with 'em tomorrow. What're their names, Mai?"
"Abbey and Taylor. And they're from Mideel, stupid. Hence the accents."
He turned his attention back to the stage and saw the two young people (he couldn't bring himself to call them Zack and Aerith like the clamoring crowd around him) posing for pictures. They were facing each other, his hands on her elbows and her head bowed, and after a flash-filled couple of seconds, he gently lifted her chin and kissed her. The crowd roared deafeningly loudly, but two of his three charges were without a doubt the loudest of them all. When everyone settled down, he asked, "Nathaniel, what was that all about?"
"Zack and Amaiia just got done playin' Crisis Core, and they're havin' a sudden fascination with all things Zaerith."
"Zaerith?" Cloud repeated uncertainly. The boy only nodded to him before continuing to cheer for the other cosplayers. "What's that?"
"Pairing name," he replied absently.
Cloud was only slightly less confused by the explanation. "Okay, but why are there people dressing up like Zack and Aerith? And I saw someone earlier in an infantryman's uniform. I mean, this is an anime convention, not a history club meeting."
The girl sitting on the other side of him laughed. "That's funny, Cloud. You should be a comedian." Amaiia looked over at him, and if not for her unbelievably long wig and colored contacts, he would have sworn he had traveled back in time and that Yuffie was making fun of him again. "Come on, even Kuraudo isn't that dense. SquareEnix, Final Fantasy 7, ring any bells?"
He rolled his eyes again as Nathaniel leaned over and whispered, "She's tryin' to tell ya that a Wutaian video game company made a game outta Meteorfall."
"And DeepGround and Genesis," Mai added. "And a movie of Geostigma and the Remnants." Cloud's jaw dropped.
"Why else," his son added slowly, a malicious smile spreading on his face, "do you think everybody tried their best to get out of coming with us? It's kinda freaky seeing yourself everywhere in various costumes, and it's even weirder to hear your kids ask people for fanservice."
Cloud sighed. He wasn't sure he wanted the exact definition of the word "fanservice," but he had a pretty good idea what would be happening over dinner that evening.
He made a mental note to kill his wife and the other traitors on Monday morning.