in a fit of absolute madness brought on by too many Japanese game shows on YouTube, James Cameron's latest movie and many, many references to World of Warcraft, I typed this up. demonegg was a bad influence and so I posted it to my LiveJournal account. Everyone there was an even WORSE influence and so I decided to post it on ffnet in my For Their Own Good drabbles folder. Everyone HERE was even worse than that and so I'm posting this as a stand alone story since apparently it's going to develop a life of it's own whether I want it to or not. Be warned, this started off as an absolute crackfic... but we've already seen how those sometimes go for me (*cough*TalesWithinTales*cough*) WARNING: I will NOT be able to update this weekly the way I try with my long running stories. I have several other stories that were already first in line (not to mention the original one I'm supposed to be writing for publication). I'm sorry, I will try to keep this one flowing but, for now, it won't be weekly updates. I hate to do that to my readers - really hate to do that to my readers - but it's the only way, at this point, I'm going to be able to add this one to my writing load. Forgive me? You know I'll do my best.

quick explanation of the setting? consider this the mix between an online game like WoW that you can actually plug your entire consciousness into and a Japanese game show based off of that (think 'Survivor' or 'Amazing Race'). Rating is for safety (and Cloud) ;)

Game on...


by TamLin

As psyched as she'd been about the game, there had been some serious trepidation the day the contest was scheduled to start. Sure, the producers could assure her all they wanted that the setting was absolutely authentic looking and that her personality had been chosen because it was the best match for the character she was supposed to be playing – but that wasn't the same as standing there in front of the transfer tubes realizing you were about to become the living embodiment of a fan revered and iconic fictional character. Fitting herself to the electronic nodes and interfaces of the on-line avatar didn't help her nerves any either. Sure, it was one thing to run through the programs and tutorials on her own but the only other 'actor' she'd had any interaction with, in or out of the training sessions, was Bruce, otherwise known as Red XIII. She wouldn't be seeing him once they were sealed 'in game' for quite some time. So she'd been understandably nervous when she'd blinked open her eyes in the new body and new world the game designers had created.

After a few hours of running the bar, and having Biggs stare at her chest, though, she was starting to get into the feel of the game. The producers had told them all that the game wouldn't go exactly like the original video game of so many years ago but there were enough similarities to let her slip into her role. She still ran a bar called Seventh Heaven. It was still home to a rag tag band of terrorists intent on blowing things up and freeing the planet from the life draining mako reactors.

She still had a very short skirt and a very large… top. Though at least it was realistically large and not 'poke someone's eyes out with those things' large. Though if Biggs kept staring she might try to poke him in the eye.

The door to the bar swung open and Barret came in. He kept forgetting to answer to his character's name but he answered just fine when they yelled 'hey you!' at him. The thought made her smile to herself and she took Bigg's drink away from him. He protested – which meant he'd been paying attention to something other than her chest at least and it was enough to distract her from the man that walked through the door after Barrett.

Because, avatar or not, the Cloud Strife in this game simulation was dangerously attractive.

It didn't help that she'd had a crush on the fictional character when she was a kid… and maybe a little beyond childhood – either.

The mike hidden in her ear hissed a little and Macy's voice came over it. Or rather the sound of her voice because all her 'gamer' was doing was 'ooooh'ing.

Macy did that every time the blond walked into the room.

She thought, she hoped, that hearing it often enough meant that she didn't blush every time it happened anymore. According to the game's designers, the Cloud Strife avatar was 'souped up' compared to theirs. Better eyesight just seemed like it would go along with that deal.

Macy was one of her 'gamers'. Swift was the other. Each avatar in the game had three players. Her – who actually inhabited the body and was the main 'actor' and two 'gamers' who were actually sitting in a booth in the outside real world in front of monitors. Their job was to see things from a gamer's perspective and to guide, and guard, her as she went through the actual game itself. The game designers had found that the audience watching the game enjoyed having three people for each team, especially since they could real time intact via the internet with Macy or Swift – or any of the other 'gamers' for that matter. She liked her team and she liked both Macy and Swift. Especially since they were both much more knowledgeable about the semantics of the game than she was. They'd been introduced during training and they'd all fit nicely into each other's nuances.

Not, she suspected, the way Jessie's gamers did if the other woman's constant muttering indicated anything.

"Biggs," she tapped her fingers on the counter top to get his attention and then slowly drew it up to her face. "My eyes are up here," she repeated ("eleven" Swift was keeping count of the number of times she said it). "And you should probably head down to the hide out. You know how Barret is."

"That's right," the voice came from behind her and she jumped even as she shut her eyes and mentally cursed how quiet the designers had made a certain avatar when it walked. From the sound of Macy's snickers in her ear, the 'lapse' on their part had been intentional. One of Cloud's hands reached passed her to rest on the bar and it put his body in close, full, contact with hers. "He's got a hard-on because he's got the latest mission parameters and he just can't wait to share."

Barret was, in fact, bellowing at the rest of the team to get their 'sorry asses' down stairs and already cranking the lever that set the entrance to the room opening. It served to distract her for all of 3.5 seconds from the way it felt to have Cloud pressed up against her back. Biggs was glaring at the man behind her and Cloud made a noise in the back of his throat that somehow managed to sound both dismissive and aggressive at the same time. His other hand came around to spread, leather clad fingers wide, over her bare stomach and in her ear Macy squealed while she just tried not to shiver. Near the side of her head, Cloud's low voice rumbled:

"Sure, they look amazing. But they feel even better. Now piss off."

It took Biggs jaw-clenching and furious glare to have what Cloud had just implied sinking in and she was still blinking and processing it as the other man slid off his bar stool and stormed over to the entrance to the hidden room.

"Cloud!" she tried not to protest it too loudly and it came out between her teeth instead. All it earned her was the roll of a shoulder against her.

"What?" His voice sounded almost lazy and his head was turned away from her to watch the last of the team disappear down into the hidden room.

"We're not doing that!" Game or no, she had certain standards and it didn't matter how good looking a guy was, there was none of – that – going on within the first day. Not even in a fictional character's body. Something that might – might – have been a sound of amusement came near her ear.

"Then how is it supposed to be believable tomorrow morning when you ask me if I slept well and I answer 'next to you, who wouldn't'?"

She could actually feel the vibrations against her when he spoke in that low voice and she tried not to shiver again. She made a noise of her own and was about to tell him that there was no way she was asking him how he slept, tomorrow or ever for that matter, when he added in a quieter voice:

"Besides, maybe now he'll leave you alone."

It surprised her so much that she actually turned her head to look at him over her shoulder but he was looking very intently at something on the far door instead, brows down over his eyes with a slight frown. She looked too but didn't see anything that hadn't been there two minutes ago. As she looked away, he made another noise in his throat and his hand shifted from her stomach to her hip, holding her in place while he reached down under the bar and pulled out one of the glass sake bottles. The bottom of it caught the seam where her legs were pressed together and dragged upward along them. Her eyes went wide again and she caught his wrist in her fingers just as the glass hit the hem of her skirt. He chuckled but didn't lift it any more.

"Come on, Tifa," his voice was against her ear, low and coaxing. "Give me something hard."

"How about a brass knuckle sandwich?" she grit out between her teeth and his chuckle came again. His hand gave her hip a light squeeze and withdrew. He withdrew. But not before she thought she heard him say:

"That's my girl."

She watched him walk over to the trap door and drop down. In her ear she heard Macy state:

"I never knew Cloud was that…"

While she paused to search for a word, Tifa supplied:

"Sexually aggressive."

Macy let out a whistle.