Title: Out Of The Closet III
Summary: The guys are persuaded to go to a FFVII convention, in costume... I think you can figure out from here (without any further elaboration from me) why they're hiding... now they have to find each other and get out, without killing each other.
Rating: Gonna say R for this one
Pairing: Oh nothin' yet...
Characters: Sephiroth, Genesis, Zack and Cloud (have had their first adventure) as have Angeal, Tseng, Kadaj, and Reno; now it's Rufus, Yazoo, Loz, Cid and Rude's turn, and Vincent's torment is on-going. He's never going to forgive me for this.
Disclaimer: I do not in any way own, nor profit from, the FFVII characters and locations
Warnings: Language, OOC behavior, suggestion of mature themes
Author's Note: Well this has been a long time in coming, but I never forgot about it, though admittedly sometimes I wanted very desperately to. I would like to extend a grateful "thank you" to all of you who read these stories and inquired after their sequels. Truthfully, without you all, this would never have been written, and I hope III can stand up with its two predecessors. I would also like to take a moment here to warn of OOC behavior. This is kind-of, but not really an AU, and given the unique circumstances and setting of these stories there is going to be behavior that is not going to "jive" with canon-buffs. If this is going to bother you, then please don't read this. There is one more story forthcoming in this little arc, and I can safely say that it will not take as long to get posted as this one did, as Closet IV is mostly completed. Thanks again for your patience!
It was a bad day. A bad day in a long history of bad days, Vincent thought as he made quick work of scaling the fire escape in order to get back into the convention building. Once at the top, he made note to use it to get the last party out. He took a moment to reflect upon everything that had happened since they had arrived at this thrice-cursed convention and realized their mistake after the first mad rush of fangirls, and found himself really wishing that he hadn't.
They had scattered and hidden themselves, and in the chaos he had been separated from them having holed up in a women's restroom. Of course he hadn't done it on purpose and had thought it a grand idea until a group of women had walked in and seen him. What followed had puzzled him –would continue to puzzle him until the end of his existence- as the women had come to a full stop in mid-chatter and just stared at him. He had begun to sweat as he watched them back. He visualized them screaming and rushing him, and he had felt his arms twitch and his nerves jump. He had thought they would have at least screamed and beat him with their purses for even being in the women's restroom, but no, they had frowned, murmured something about Vincent Valentine never stooping to enter a women's restroom, and then wandered out again, and the only thing he had been able to absurdly think at that moment had been, "What, do I smell or something?" If he learned nothing else from his horrific experiences today he would at least take away the reaffirmation that women were strange creatures and better left alone.
He had taken an hour just to think about that incident, and in the end decided to test a theory. He began trying to sneak around. When he had encountered his first group of fangirls, he had clenched his jaw and walked lightly past them, in plain sight and fully expecting them to glomp him… but they didn't. He hadn't known if he should have been glad about that or insulted (naturally it hadn't occurred to him that that particular snarl of fangirls had been Angeal fangirls). Intelligence had won out however, and he utilized this new-found invisibility and began strutting around the building openly, looking for his comrades… until he ran into a group of Vincent fangirls, and realized very suddenly and quite painfully that he was, in fact, not invisible as he had previously thought. It was also around this time that he learned that his shoes were not run-friendly and he had nearly broken his neck twice before he had had the sheer insane luck to successfully hide in a stairwell.
It had been a maintenance stairwell and it had been abandoned for the duration of the convention. He had figured that as long as he was there, he might as well explore it, and had discovered that it ran to the parking garage that was situated below the building. He had then spent the next several hours searching said building –being much more careful this time- and as a result had found his comrades, who had split off into three groups. First had been Sephiroth's group, in which he had learned that everything about a SOLIDER was enhanced when Zack had shared his partially-digested breakfast with him in its gaseous state. It had almost been worth it to see Sephiroth's and Genesis's faces… almost. But true to his word he had gotten the men free, and then moved on.
Next had been Angeal's group, and as if it hadn't been bad enough with the walking hemorrhoid that was Tseng, he had been shown yet again –as if he hadn't learned it the first time!- that his shoes were not conducive to running when he had done a rather spectacular job of taking out a display for an upcoming children's benefit. It had been while he was picking confetti out of his hair –which was a real bitch when you had hair as long and as thick as his- when he had come up with the brilliant idea to melt his sabatons down and make keychains out of them before he broke something, most likely his ass. It was certainly already bruised enough to rival the damage done to his ego. Locking Tseng in a broom closet had helped, but Reno had shown him up in the selfless category when he had saved Kadaj from fangirls, and had plunged him right back into his bad mood, so now not only did he have to find that last group, but he had to retrieve the knuckle-walking Turk as well.
Vincent sighed and shook his head, shutting down those thoughts before they could plunge his foul mood into something truly destructive. He just needed to get everyone out so he could be done with this nightmare, and with another put-upon sigh he worked a window open and climbed back into the building of hell to focus upon finding the last group of unfortunate men.
~Elsewhere, in a shabby lounge~
"Does he have to keep doing that?" Rufus Shinra asked irritably, his eye developing a rhythmic twitch that matched Yazoo's slightly monosyllabic "Knit one, purl two; knit one, purl two."
"And for the third time: Yes. He. Does." Loz said from where he stood listening at the door. "His therapist found that knitting helps him stay focused and calm, which, believe me, is a good thing." His usually impressive patience was beginning to fray under Shinra's persistent picking at his cousin. "Trust me, Mr. Shinra, you don't want him to get… agitated."
"That's all fine and well, but he doesn't have to say that out loud, he's been going at it non-stop for the last hour!" Rufus grit out between clenched teeth.
Loz sighed and leveled an equally irritated glare at Rufus. "Just ignore him, Mr. Shinra, and it will be all better."
Rufus mumbled something unintelligible and Loz sighed and went back to listening at the door.
Across the room Cid sat staring at Rude, chin propped on the heel of his hand and an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips. His flight goggles were a little askew from the last time he rubbed his forehead and he wore a thoughtful expression. Rude, for his part, sat hiding behind his dark shades and refused to look at Cid. The gruff blond huffed and fidgeted and Rude twitched.
"Don't'chu ever talk?" Cid blurted.
Rude said nothing.
"I mean, hell, all ya ever do it just sit there… why I've seen rocks with more personality'n you!"
Rude continued to elevate said rock's personality.
Cid squeezed an eye shut, snatched his cigarette from his mouth and pointed it at Rude. "I'm'a gonna get'cha t'talk dammit. You jus' watch me!"
"Don't bother, Mr. Highwind, he won't speak to someone as base you." Rufus grumbled from the frayed and stained lounge chair he was currently, and reluctantly, occupying.
"Shut up! I ain't talkin' t'you!" Cid grumbled, fighting the urge to yell. "I'm'a talkin' t' cue ball, s' butt out."
Rufus's nostrils flared at Cid's impertinent tone and he briefly considered snapping back at the man, but decided against it. An uneasy silence descended upon the room, a silence that was heavy and strained, broken only by Yazoo's "Knit one, purl two", as Cid studied Rude and decided upon the best course of action by which to make the big Turk speak, and Loz remained listening at the door. It was unwise to leave Rufus Shinra unwatched, as was determined after about ten more minutes, when the man apparently reached his limit and leapt up onto his feet. Stalking over to Yazoo, he ripped the startled man's knitting out of his grip, walked over to the small window, opened it, and threw the needles and yarn out the window.
There were several seconds of leaden silence during which everyone stared at Rufus: Cid and Rude with shocked curiosity and Loz with absolute, panicked horror, before all hell broke loose.
With the end approaching in his mind, Vincent made his way down the hallway that lead to the room where he knew the rest of his comrades to be trapped. His steps slowed and finally came to a stop halfway to his destination as his hearing picked up the noises of what sounded like a full out brawl. Running the last several feet to the door he threw it open and froze, staring like a chocobo caught in the headlights of a truck.
The first to catch his attention was Rufus Shinra, standing on the chair –this in itself not necessarily an odd sight- but he was pointing at Yazoo who was struggling in the grip of Loz who looked hell bent on dismembering Shinra in the most painful way possible. Yazoo, for all that he looked thin and only average in strength, was putting up a hell of a scrap, so much so that Loz –looking increasingly more panicked by the second- was throwing his whole body weight into holding his companion down, or back rather. Shinra's face was beet red and he was screeching something about… knitting? Vincent blinked and shook his head.
This movement seemed to jolt him back to reality somewhat and he entered the room and snapped the door shut behind him, not that that would do any good. These idiots were making enough noise to attract the entire building's population, and for a moment Vincent was tempted just to let them do it.
Next to catch his attention was Cid Highwind, who appeared to be locked in what looked to be mortal combat with the Turk, Rude. They had succeeded in knocking over a small table, completely destroyed one chair, and its mate didn't look as though it was faring much better. Cid's shirt was ripped and had been pulled halfway off his muscular body, and Rude's jacket was missing an arm. Currently Rude had his hands around Cid's neck, his shades askew on his face and Cid was trying to push Rush's face away, a crazy grin on his own that Vincent recognized from experience as indicating that the pilot was having the time of his life.
"Say somethin' dammit!" Cid grunted, and Rude remained resolutely silent.
Vincent stifled a groan as he began to twitch. Truthfully, he didn't care if they ripped each other to pieces but here was not the place to do it! He watched them all going at it for several minutes, at a loss as to where to start, before he just snapped.
That's it! he thought venomously. After the day he had had, that was enough! Without any thoughts of his own safety, Vincent strode forward and fisted his right hand in the front of Yazoo's leather coat and yanked the younger man forward until their faces were mere inches apart, "You, get a grip, and calm the fuck down!" he hissed, his red eyes narrowing. Yazoo's eyes widened in startled surprise.
"Whoa there, Vince." Cid chuckled from where he was pinned by the big Turk, Rude, one hand in Rude's face, a finger shoved unceremoniously up the poor man's nose. "Easy, ol' buddy."
Vincent's head whipped around to pin his friend with a hell-born stare and said, without releasing Yazoo, "And you! If you do not knock off whatever it is you are doing, then I will personally pound you into a grease smear, got me?" Cid looked shocked and a little frightened; Vincent was usually so level mannered that this outburst was rather…alarming.
"Huh," the rumble came from Rude.
"Oh, don't you start Mr. Turkey-Turk! You have been egging him on with whatever it is you are or are not doing! Do not make me come over there and tie your ass to a chair, because I sure as hell will!" Vincent was so incensed that the idiocy slipping out of his mouth hardly registered.
Rufus, however, thought it was delightfully funny, and began to snicker. The laughter died quickly however when Vincent's rabid stare fixated on him to pin him in place. "And you," he growled, having no love whatsoever for his ex-employer, "if you even breathe wrong I will rip out your whiny, narcissistic, selfish, egotistical tongue and eat it!" Rufus paled and fell back a step.
Vincent jerked his head to silently challenge Loz to do or say something stupid. "And what about you?" Fortunately Loz was far from stupid, quickly raising his hands and shaking his head. "Good." Vincent turned his head to address the room: "Now that we're all…eh?"
Yazoo was poking him in the bicep and said, upon seeing Vincent's raised eyebrow in silent inquiry, "I believe you no longer need to cling to my coat, Mr. Valentine."
"Oh, sorry," Vincent mumbled and abruptly let go, allowing Yazoo to settle back onto his feet. Yazoo cleared his throat and re-situated his leather coat and harness straps, leveling an appreciative gaze on the dark-haired gunman.
"Now that we are all in agreement," Vincent said, heaving a deep breath and letting it out slowly, "I have spent altogether too much time in this thrice-cursed building and I want out. I've contacted the others and they have all gotten…well shit, what is that?" He was really getting pissed off now; he motioned for the others to remain silent as he followed the crackling noise to a speaker in the corner that was half-hidden behind a tattered bookshelf.
Vincent leaned up closer until his ear was very nearly up against it, once again not exercising his considerable inherent intelligence. It was at this particular point in time that the short in the wires decided to connect and a burst of music shot needles of pain through Vincent's too-sensitive ear. With a string of colorful curses, he flew back with his gloved hand cupped protectively over his ear, "Motherfuck, gods-damned piece of shit!" he leaned over, stomping his armored boot and rubbing his ear. "Fuck-fuck-fuckety-fuck!"
Loz decided to risk bodily injury and walked over to lay his hand on Vincent's shoulder while the others gave up the ghost and started laughing. Vincent looked up and snarled, "If I had to pick just one of you to kill at this moment if you don't shut up, I would be very, very nervous at having the last name of Shinra." Rufus at least had the sense to shut up.
Vincent sighed and sank into a sitting position still cradling his throbbing head. Loz knelt with him and rubbed his back supportively and said softly, "What were you going to say Vincent? About getting out?" His deep voice was a soothing rumble.
"The others have gotten out, well all but one, I appear to have misplaced Tseng," Vincent muttered. "But you five are the last ones. I came here to help you, but I'm beginning to regret that decision."
Now he had their rapt and undivided attention. "Shit, Vince, you serious?" At the lethal glare Vincent leveled on Cid, the pilot held up his hands in supplication. "Guess so."
"We would be in your debt if you would help us, Vincent." Loz said softly, leaning down to catch Vincent's gaze
It was the sincerity in those green eyes that finally made the exhausted gunman sigh and nod his head. "All right. I imagine it would not be a very honorable thing for me to do if I just walked away from you all." Rubbing his temples, Loz helped him to stand and he faced his motley crew, "On my way here, I noticed that the fangirls have…yes, Rufus?"
"Question, Mr. Valentine…" Rufus sneered and crossed his arms, "…just how have you been able to traverse these halls unmolested when we have not?"
"I believe that should be obvious, Mr. ShinRa," Loz said mildly as he straightened Vincent's mantle from behind before stepping around the gunman before Vincent had a chance to speak. "Besides being quite adept at ghosting everywhere, Mr. Valentine's garb is quite concealing and if you would recall, there were quite a few…what's the word for them?" Loz tapped his chin thoughtfully before snapping his fingers as it came to him, "cosplayers running around."
Rufus sniffed, "A waste of attention to character importance if you ask me. The retail stores must have had a sale in his costume replicas."
Vincent blinked at Rufus, feeling his rage begin to boil up again even as it had begun to die down. This time Yazoo was the one who bit back. "Well thankfully there haven't been very many white blankets with wheels rolling around. You want to talk retail sales, one only needs to buy a simple cotton sheet and white pajamas and you've a respectable costume for you, Rufus. If anyone should be complaining about lack of character importance, it should be Loz and myself. At least you had speaking parts that included full sentences, although there are only so many ways to say, 'The Lifestream courses through our planet…yadda yadda yadda…' and I actually feel sorry for you that you only had insults to fling, and not very original ones at that. At least Loz and I got to be active."
Yazoo was clearly on a roll, airily waving in Rufus' direction while glaring murderous intent at the businessman, but Loz gently interrupted him. "That's enough, cousin. Mr. ShinRa is simply lashing out. He's not used to being relegated to an unimportant secondary character. It's difficult for his pride."
Throughout all of that, Rufus had slowly begun to puff up in indignant, impotent rage until he looked like an expectant chocobo hen…just without the feathers.
"Heh," Cid harrumphed from where he had finally wriggled out from under Rude. "Those ijits talk about unimportant characters 'n look at us baldy!" He thumped the tall Turk in the chest, "we're even ignored in a damned closet!"
Rude adjusted his shades, crossed his arms and nodded in agreement while glaring at the others.
"This is a lounge, not a closet, Mr. Highwind," Loz corrected.
"Whatever," Cid grumped. "It's fuckin' tiny, so it might as well be a closet, how's 'at?"
Loz and Vincent both rolled their eyes and Yazoo shrugged a thin shoulder.
"All right," Vincent sighed. "As for getting out of here, about the only option left for us, considering the size of our group is the fire escape just down the hall." He leveled a look at Loz. "Can you get them there… quietly?"
Loz nodded. "Shouldn't be a problem. Why? Where are you going?"
Vincent muttered something unintelligible under his breath, then said a little more loudly, "I'm going to retrieve Tseng. I know where he is."
"You had better find him, Valentine," Rufus grumbled.
"Stop… right there, Shinra." Vincent said holding up a finger. "Do not even start with me. Loz, I think it's time you started moving."
Without waiting for Loz to reply, he turned and headed for the lounge room door. As soon as he stopped in order to open it, someone bounced into the back of him, which in turn pushed him into the door. Turning around to see who was responsible for such bad driving he came face to face with Yazoo. "Just what do you think you're doing?" he asked a little exasperatedly.
"Coming with you," Yazoo sniffed.
"I don't think so," Vincent replied, placing both hands on the young man's thin shoulders and very firmly pushing him back a step. "You stick out worse than Cid at a beauty pageant."
"Oy!" Cid exclaimed angrily. "They just ain't ready fer me yet, s'all!"
"Not. Now. Cid." Vincent sighed before turning back to Yazoo. "You go with the others."
"Uh, I don't think that would be a very wise idea, Mr. Valentine." Loz said a little nervously. "If Yazoo comes with us, then I cannot guarantee Mr. Shinra's safety."
"I have Rude, Loz, I'll be fine." Rufus huffed.
"I know." Loz replied grimly. "Vincent, couldn't you take Yazoo with you?"
It was a plead, and Vincent looked from one silver-haired man to the other before he threw up his hands in a huff before turning and exiting the lounge with a muttered. "Wait here."
Nearly fifteen minutes went by before Vincent returned, by which time they all thought the gunman had left them. When the ex-Turk slipped back through the door they all released a collective breath. Vincent had a brown paper bag tucked under his arm which he tossed at Yazoo who caught it awkwardly. "Put it on."
Yazoo frowned and opened the bag, peering down into it. His expression went from irritated to incredulous quicker than a sports car goes from 0 to 60. "Absolutely not," the young man said closing the bag quickly and shaking his silver-haired head. "I am not wearing this."
Vincent shrugged. "Have it your way, but if you're going with me you wear that, otherwise you're going with the others."
Yazoo glared at him for a moment longer before he walked over to the bookcase Vincent had squatted next to earlier. With a grunt and a screech of wood on linoleum he slid the monstrosity out from the wall far enough that he could be obstructed from curious eyes. There was the sound of rustling clothes and creaking leather, another slightly breathless grunt then, "I'm going to make you pay for this Valentine. I want you to know that. I know where you sleep."
"That threat might actually hold some weight if I actually slept," Vincent replied wryly. "Are you finished yet?"
"About…" Yazoo said then snarled as though he was having some difficulty. Finally, "if anyone laughs, I'm ripping their throats out."
There was a rustling of paper then Yazoo emerged from his makeshift dressing room. Nobody laughed. They were all staring… quite openly. Yazoo stopped and looked at them all, putting his hands on his hips. "What?"
"Wow," Cid said and cleared his throat while Rude whistled softly in stunned appreciation. Even Rufus was speechless while Loz rubbed his eyes.
Vincent nodded in satisfaction, crossing his arms over his chest. "Just as I thought. Looking like that you'll blend right in."
"And just what do you mean by 'looking like that,' Valentine?" Yazoo said irritably.
This time it is was Loz who cleared his throat as he regarded his cousin. "I'd say you look like a fangirl, cousin, but truthfully you look even better." And Yazoo did, dressed in tight-fitting, low-riding blue jeans, a figure hugging tank top that hid a modest pushup padded bra and a blond wig that showed off his bright green eyes most flatteringly. Yazoo was very nearly gorgeous.
"That is not funny, Loz. I am not a woman." Yazoo said sternly.
"Oh, we know," Vincent replied stepping forward to take Yazoo's arm only to jump back in surprise when Yazoo jerked it from his grip.
"Just because I look like a woman, does not mean, nor give you permission, to treat me like one, Turk. I am quite capable of walking on my own, thank you very much!" Yazoo said, glaring.
Suitably chastened, Vincent nodded. "Fair enough." He turned to the others. "Whenever you're ready, exit here and turn right. Follow the hall until you come to the first T then turn left and follow the hall straight and you'll come to the fire escape. Take it to the ground, and Barret should be waiting for you with a limo. Good luck, gentlemen."
With Yazoo in tow, Vincent slipped out of the lounge and began to make his way to the broom closet cursed with holding a pissy Turk. The others, lead by Loz waited ten minutes before cautiously leaving their safe haven and, by following Vincent's instructions, arrived at the fire escape. Vincent had left the window cracked for them, and Loz raised it and climbed out onto the metal platform. Turning back to the others he said, "Okay, your turn, Mr. Shinra."
Rufus took one look down the fifteen stories to the ground below, and his already pale face paled even further. Blue eyes going wide and slightly bulbous, he said shakily, "No. No way am I going out there. Forget it. I'll take my chances with the fangirls."
"You'll never survive, Mr. ShinRa." Loz said matter-of-factly, reaching out to gently take the businessman's elbow. "Come, we need to go down now. Just stay close to the building and I'll walk between you and the railing, and Rude will be right behind you. How does that sound? Don't worry, I won't let you fall."
Rufus tore his eyes off the dizzying drop before him to stare wonderingly at Loz a moment before finally nodding and sliding out the window to flatten himself against the wall. He was panting and sweaty, but out of the building.
"Aw, yer not afraid 'o heights now are ya, Mr. ShinRa?" Cid sneered, climbing out the window next to lean back against the railing comfortably.
"Not all of us lack good judgment, common sense or intelligence here, Mister Highwind." Rufus snapped, not opening his eyes. "You love to fly so much, why don't you do us all a favor, and take a flying leap right off of this fire escape!"
"I'm'a gonna push 'im. Can I push 'im? Please, c'n I push 'im?" Cid growled, balling his fists at his sides.
"No, Highwind." Rude and Loz said in unison.
Cid blinked and turned to face them, an enormous, cheeky grin – one Reno would have been proud of and in fact made Rude groan – splitting his face and said, "Ya said somethin'! By th'gods, ya actually said somethin'!"
"Oi," Rude sighed, shaking his head.
"Well, Mr. Highwind seems to be your problem now, Mr. Rude." Loz chuckled then stood up and stretched, popping his back and sighing. "Well now!" he said cheerfully. "Let's make our way down then, shall we?"
"You know…you really are nothing like you were in the movie." Rufus said, inching along the wall towards the stairs.
Loz laughed. "If I had a gil for every time I heard that line!" He looked over at Rufus and grinned. "You have no idea how hard it was to play an idiot. You know I only agreed to be in the movie because Yazoo was casted?"
"You should have been cast as the 'brains' of the operation and not that chatterbox half-wit, Kadaj." Rufus said daring to crane his neck to peer down. He moaned as the height made his vision swim, and he screwed his eyes shut again.
Loz snorted. "I think we both know how aesthetically displeasing that would have been, Mr. ShinRa."
"Yes, unfortunately." Rufus conceded as he allowed Loz to pry him off of the wall to begin climbing down one of fifteen metal stairwells after the man. "But I still feel that you were cast inappropriately, given your clear intelligence."
"It heartens me to hear you say that, Mr. ShinRa." Easily walking backward and keeping a steady, supportive hand on Rufus's hip, Loz continued conversationally. "Quite frankly, Mr. ShinRa, I'm surprised that you're afraid of heights after what I saw you do during the movie."
Rufus paused in his slow progress down the stairs to look over his shoulder and gape at the silver-haired man. "Are you daft, man? Do you think I'm stupid enough to go flinging myself off buildings like that?"
"We could only be s' lucky." Cid grumbled, then squawked rather loudly when Rude smacked him on the back of the head. "Ow, Baldy, what t' hell was that for?"
"For being stupid, Mr. Highwind," Rude grumbled.
Cid huffed happily. "Three more words 'n last time! Progress! An' t' show ya what a good guy I am, I'm a'willin' t' fergive th' fact that two of 'em 'r repeats." He winked at Rude and the big Turk groaned again.
Rufus shot a deadly glare at Cid, who only smirked and gestured rudely, before finishing, "That was my stunt man. All of my work was done with a green-screen and thick safety cables."
"Chicken," Cid mumbled.
"What was that?" Rufus shot back suspiciously.
"Nothin'," Cid said, looking innocent and stuffing his hands into his pants pockets.
~ Meanwhile, deep within the halls of the Convention Center… ~
"Oooo! I cannot believe you are making me wear this!" Yazoo complained, fidgeting with his pushup. "Of all the degrading, disrespectful, selfish…"
Vincent rolled his eyes, and continued walking. "Oh for the love of Holy calm down! It was either that or down the fire escape with Rufus and the others!"
"In which case I would have pushed him over the edge…" Yazoo sniffed.
"Which would have caused a lot more problems than it would have solved, Yazoo," Vincent said resignedly. "He does have a fan base, unfortunately."
"Is that what was buzzing around his head? I thought those were gnats."
Vincent turned around and leveled a droll stare at the young man.
"What?" Yazoo asked innocently, blinking luminous green eyes at him.
Vincent's lips only quirked up slightly in a grin, and he shook his head chuckling, before turning back around and continuing down the hall. When he reached the corner he pulled up sharply when he heard muffled voices. A lot of muffled voices. Yazoo, who was trying in vain to resituate his halter-top and consequently not paying attention to the stopped body in front of him, crashed into Vincent's back…again.
"Oh, would you quit doing that already?" Yazoo snapped irritably. "I'm getting sick of running into the back of you!" He shoved at Vincent's broad back. "You're so…hard!"
"You have no idea," Vincent muttered wryly, then motioned for Yazoo to be quiet. He poked his head around the corner and watched a thick knot of fangirls that were huddled around Tseng's closet. "Crap."
"Well, that could prove problematic." Yazoo whispered, head popping into view just under Vincent's as they both peered around the corner.
"You think?" Vincent sneered quietly.
"Um, excuse me?" Came a soft, feminine voice from behind them, which caused Yazoo to lift his head abruptly, and slam it into Vincent's chin.
"Son of a…" Vincent sucked in a wounded breath, hand coming up to clasp his offended jaw. "…Bearded chocobo farmer!" He edited quickly when he saw the young woman standing behind them, appearing as though the entire meaning of life had fled her.
Yazoo, rubbing the top of his now-blonde head, recovered first. "Yes?"
"I was wondering if…" the young woman trailed off as she stared at the both of them, eyes slowly growing rounder and rounder as she looked from first Vincent then to Yazoo and back as though watching an engrossing ping-pong match.
Yazoo, growing increasingly uncomfortable, placed his hand against his chest and stepped back to press into Vincent. "Is something wrong?" He asked, taking care to raise his voice just enough to sound feminine without sounding fake.
The woman blinked, shaking her head, as though snapping out of a trance. "I'm sorry, it's just that…I saw his costume, and I thought it was the most realistic-looking 'Vincent' costume I had seen here…and I was-I was wondering if I might get my picture taken with you."
"Uh," Vincent said dumbly, tucking his chin even lower behind his high collar. Now it was his turn to blink. "Look, I don't think…"
"Oh, you even sound like Vincent!" The young woman said excitedly. "And you really, really look like him too!"
"Yeah, I get that a lot." Vincent muttered, crossing his arms over his chest.
"But why would you want to take…our picture with you?" Yazoo asked, nervously glancing at Vincent, who only shrugged.
At this the young woman's whole body slumped in heartbroken defeat. "I would much rather have the real thing, the brochure said that they would all be here, but they've disappeared! I used my entire savings to come here and…" She broke off and glanced away, blinking rapidly.
Well now Vincent felt like a total sack of shit, and judging from the guilty look that Yazoo had on his face, the young man wasn't feeling a whole lot better. "We would be glad too, wouldn't we, Sophie?" He asked, looking at Yazoo, and fighting a grin as Yazoo scowled darkly.
"Oh, thank you! Thank you so much!" The young woman said looking at Vincent and so missing Yazoo's murderous expression. "Just wait here a second, and I'll find someone to take our picture!" And with that she darted off excitedly.
As soon as she was out of earshot, Yazoo whirled on Vincent. "Sophie?" He hissed, hands on his narrow hips.
Vincent grinned cheekily, and patted Yazoo's face. "Well it was a better choice than 'Yazoo'. I think that might have given us away a bit don't you, dear?"
Yazoo opened his mouth to reply, but nothing came out as his jaw dropped, rather inelegantly. "You have got to be joking! That is the best they can do?"
Vincent snickered at Yazoo's expression, then turned to see what had the young man so ready to pop a blood vessel. What he saw actually made him take a step back as he took in the 'Yazoo' cosplayer that followed the young woman back toward them. He coughed and pounded his chest. "Yes, well, I am beginning think that Rufus had the right idea hiding under cheap white sheets, and dressing in pajamas."
"Oh, don't you start, Turk!" Yazoo said, slugging Vincent in the shoulder rather hard.
"Ow," Vincent deadpanned.
Yazoo would have said more, but the two fangirls approached them and so the silver-haired young man snapped up straight and popped an enormous smile onto his face. Vincent rolled his eyes. "Okay!" the young woman said, clapping her hands eagerly. "Let's see, how should we do this…um, where is he going?" She asked, looking worriedly at 'Sophie' and pointing at Vincent, who was, by reflex, slowly edging away from them.
"Oh no you don't! Honey." Yazoo said sweetly, and grabbing a hold of a hunk of Vincent's hair.
"Hey-hey-hey! Not the hair! Dear!" Vincent yelped, and batted away Yazoo's hand.
Yazoo turned to the young woman and said apologetically, "I'm sorry, but Michael is rather camera-shy." Then he leaned in closer to the young woman's ear and stage whispered, "It makes it terribly difficult to have sex when he knows he's being filmed."
Vincent's jaw dropped at that, and his face turned as red as his mantle. "I…we…you…what?"
"Well it's true, baby." Yazoo said innocently, and snickered when Vincent balled his hands into fists at his sides, and looked for all the world that in less than a minute he would commit homicide…or pitch a grade-A temper-tantrum.
"Do not listen to her, she's delusional and one nut shy of an oak tree." Vincent said levelly to the young woman who was just as red as he was.
"Um, that's okay," she said in reply and cleared her throat, looking away nervously.
Yazoo opened his mouth to keep going, but Vincent clapped his hand firmly over it and said warningly, "That is quite enough, Sophie, you are making her uncomfortable. Shall we just take the pictures so that she can be on her way, and we on ours?" He stared pointedly at Yazoo, and felt the young man still under his hand.
Cautiously he removed his hand, and Yazoo sniffed, "Yes, of course darling, you're right."
Vincent stiffened. That was too easy. He eyed Yazoo warily. There had to be something else as the young man had proven time again that he just did not agree to things that quickly. Suddenly he was nervous, which only got worse when Yazoo snaked his arms around his waist and hugged him, which made him pull his arms up and looked panicked.
"Um, we don't have to do this if it really upsets you that much." The young woman said hesitantly.
"NO!" Yazoo and Vincent both exclaimed rather loudly, which made the young woman jump and take a step back.
"O-okay," she said and tried to smile before turning and handing her digital camera to the 'Yazoo' cosplayer who only looked utterly baffled by their interaction.
And so the photographing commenced.
First the young woman, having introduced herself as Zoie, had a picture taken with Vincent, who was actually rather comfortable allowing her to wrap her arms around his waist, and reciprocated by putting his arm around her shoulder (while trying to ignore Yazoo's mocking expression). Next Yazoo/Sophie insisted upon having her picture taken with Zoie, much to the woman's confusion, and holding up two fingers in a 'V' and winking as the flash went off, which made Vincent snort and roll his eyes. Finally came the photograph of them all together, with Vincent and Yazoo standing with Zoie in the middle. After that one was taken, Vincent met and held Yazoo's gaze over Zoie's head, and they nodded simultaneously before Vincent held up a finger to the cosplayer indicating one more picture was to be taken. As the cosplayer lined up the shot, the two men got ready and at the last second leaned down and kissed Zoie's cheeks just as the flash went off, causing the young woman to look pleasantly startled, then once the picture was taken, squawked indignantly and pushed them both back. "What was that for!" she cried, glaring at both of them.
Vincent shrugged again, and Yazoo giggled eerily and said, "Just felt like it." And winked again.
Then Yazoo struck up a casual conversation with Zoie, asking her about herself and her experience at the convention, and wincing appropriately when the young woman expressed her sorrow and disappointment at the stars' mass disappearance. Vincent somehow found himself holding Zoie's bag as the cosplayer drifted back to wherever it was she had come from, having clearly grown bored with the lot of them. Glancing down curiously into the bag, a glossy photograph perked his interest, and he caught Zoie's attention. "May I?" he inquired politely, which earned him a fetching blush and a nod.
"I was hoping to have it signed, but…" she trailed off, looking crestfallen again.
Vincent pulled the photograph out, and recognized the promotional photo that had been taken prior to the filming of Advent Children. They were all there, and they all actually looked happy…even Sephiroth. Next to where he had seen the photo he noticed a black permanent marker and he got an idea. "Will you excuse me a moment?" He asked, and Zoie nodded before returning to her conversation with Yazoo. He pulled out the marker, caught Yazoo's eye again briefly and held it up, got a nod in return before Yazoo easily re-captured Zoie's attention as Vincent moved off around the corner. Quickly Vincent scrawled a brief note upon the photo in his precise and flowing penmanship: "Our sincerest apologies for such unprofessional behavior. I would hope that you do not continue to think ill of us. It was a pleasure meeting you, Zoie. Much affection, Vincent Valentine."
He slipped back around the corner after sliding the photo back into the bag when the ink had dried. He listened carefully to the conversation a moment then easily inserted himself into it, and got Zoie talking excitedly about her adventure in arriving at the convention while he surreptitiously handed the bag off to Yazoo who snuck around the corner with it. The silver-haired young man pulled out the photo, located a spot next to his image, much as Vincent had done, and left his message in a slightly less elegant, but still readable hand: "I enjoyed getting to know you, Zoie, and I'm sorry for the deception. Fondly, Yazoo." He was about to return the photo, when an idea struck him, and he grinned evilly. He drew a little arrow under his name and flipped the photo over. In the bottom right-hand corner he scribbled a phone number and a short message under it: "If you call this number, tell him I'm calling in the favor he owes me. What you do with it is up to you. –Y". He blew quickly on the ink until it was dry and wouldn't smudge, then returned the photo to its home within the bag.
That done, Yazoo rejoined the two in the hallway, and as luck would have it the conversation was winding down. With a quick hug from each of them and a wish of a safe journey home, they parted company; Zoie with more bounce back in her step, and both men feeling a little less guilty about the whole convention fiasco. By then the gaggle of fangirls around Tseng's closet had dispersed, and they were able to retrieve the irritated Turk.
"Who are you?" Tseng asked sharply, eyes traveling up and down Yazoo's slender body.
Yazoo scowled darkly, placing his hands on his hips, and Vincent sighed. "This is Yazoo, Tseng. It was either coming with me dressed as he is or killing your boss. I figure this was a less complicated choice."
"Less complicated perhaps, but not the necessarily the right one." Tseng muttered. "But cross-dressing? There's nothing more humiliating or emasculating. Quite frankly, Yazoo, I would be insulted."
When neither of them replied, only stood there blinking at him, Tseng crossed his arms and glared at the both of them. "What? Are you saying there's something worse than running around dressed like a woman?"
Yazoo and Vincent looked at each other, expressions translating to 'Did he seriously just say that?', then back at Tseng and replied in unison, voices flat and unamused. "Mpreg."
Tseng snorted. "Of course. Breaking the laws of basic biology in a complete disregard for a man's honor and pride. But you know, now that I think about it... while you make a rather fetching woman, Yazoo, I think it's Vincent who has the most brats on the ground. Tell me, dog, how does it feel to be a broodmare? Excuse me, I believe the correct term would be bitch."
With a snarl, Vincent lunged at Tseng only to run into Yazoo, who had placed himself in between them. "Ah-ah-ah, easy Mr. Valentine. He's not worth it. I mean," Yazoo turned to rake his eyes scornfully up and down the length of the Turk's body. "Would you really want to dirty your hands beating a man who's dick-whipped by his boss? And not just a boss, but a man whom he raised? I personally would rather give birth to a litter than deal with a pedophile."
Vincent snickered, his opinion of the young man going up a notch. Tseng's expression darkened and a muscle could be seen ticking in his jaw. The man's black eyes sparked dangerously and for a moment he looked as though he was ready to take them both on, but at the last minute he spun on his heel and began stalking down the hallway in the direction that they had just come from, trailing a rather dark and ominous cloud of malicious intent behind him.
"Do you think we should tell him he's going the wrong way?" Yazoo whispered to Vincent.
"No, let's just give him a minute." Vincent chuckled, his voice low and acidic.
Yazoo shrugged and crossed his arms over his chest, leaning back against the wall and propping one foot up against it as well. After a short moment Tseng came storming back to them. Stopping in front of them he hissed, "Why aren't you two moving?"
"Because you were going the wrong way." Vincent explained, his tone mild as he examined one of the points of his gauntlet.
"And so you were just going to let me go off on my own and not tell me?" Tseng growled.
"Seemed like a good idea to me," Vincent said with a non-committal shrug of his broad shoulders, his expression bored.
Tseng was about to respond when Yazoo interrupted them with a sigh. "As much as I'd love to watch you two verbally flog each other? I think you need to keep in mind that it's Vincent who knows the way out, Mr. Tseng."
Tseng's eye twitched at Yazoo's mocking formality, but remained wisely silent as the young man had a point. That and it irked the Turk that even though he was dressed like an attractive woman, Yazoo could still manage to maintain his masculine credibility. Finally, after a few more moments of uncomfortable silence he stiffly bowed and held out his arm to Vincent and said through gritted teeth. "If you would be so kind, Mr. Valentine, to show us the way out?"
Vincent snorted and gestured with his chin down the hall they had yet to travel. "That way."
If looks could kill, Tseng would have ripped the skin off his bones very, very slowly, before he turned his back on them and began walking.
As Vincent and Yazoo followed, walking down the hallway a safe distance away from the enraged Turk, Yazoo said innocently, "You mean I could have killed him?" Then he huffed, "Man that is so not fair!"
After spending the rest of the day drifting through promotional displays, gift shops, gaming stations, VR booths and staff and developer question and answer sessions, Zoie made her way back to the lobby. She was more than ready to leave, having been thoroughly disappointed. The promised cast interviews and Q&A events had not happened and fangirls had drifted by the long tables, looking mournfully at the empty chairs and untouched water bottles. A few proud die-hards had taken pictures of the name cards in front of each seat, but most had drifted away angry or brokenhearted. Zoie walked by them now, dispiritedly reading them as she went: Sephiroth, Genesis Rhapsodos, Angeal Hewley, Zack Fair, and Cloud Strife at the first table; Tseng, Rufus Shinra, Rude and Reno at the second and at the third Kadaj, Yazoo, Loz, Vincent Valentine, Cid Highwind and Barret Wallace. All were empty when they should have been filled.
She figured it hadn't been a total loss though. She had gotten pictures taken with a wicked Vincent cosplayer… and his girlfriend. She still couldn't figure out why, but she just shrugged it off. Once in the lobby she met up with her friend Aubrey who looked just a downtrodden as she did.
"Find anything?" she asked her friend, but knew the answer by the glum look on Aubrey's face.
Aubrey shook her head. "Nothing. There was rumor of a Sephiroth sighting, but by the time I got there there was nothing, and then I heard from some others that chased Reno that the Turk had said he'd kiss the one who caught him, but who knows. I think it was just a bid for attention. Hey do you have any water left? I'm thirsty."
Zoie handed Aubrey her bag and while her friend sat down to rummage through it, she wandered over to the windows to watch the traffic go by. What she saw however, made her stop and her jaw drop nearly to her feet. It was an enormous stretched limo with heavily tinted windows. But that wasn't what had her gaping though. Rather what had her blinking in stunned surprise was the Vincent cosplayer and his girlfriend getting into it. She just stood there, rooted to the spot as the cosplayer chose that moment to look back at the lobby entrance… and catch her eye.
They stared at each other for a moment before the cosplayer touched his girlfriend on the elbow. The woman stopped climbing into the limo to straighten back up and look at her boyfriend, frowning. She followed his gaze and met Zoie's and a smile slowly crept its way across the woman's face. Zoie could only watch, helplessly entranced as the woman slowly pulled off what turned out to be a blonde wig to reveal… a wealth of smoky-silver hair. Zoie felt as though she was going to faint as she realized that she was not looking at a Vincent cosplayer and his girlfriend, but the actual Vincent Valentine and Yazoo.
Then it clicked in her head that Vincent and Yazoo had taken their pictures with her, and had kissed her! She felt as though she could weep and laugh at the same time as an enormous grin split her face wide open as Vincent slowly bowed to her and Yazoo winked and gave her the "V" sign before climbing into the limo. Zoie stared at the vehicle until it disappeared from sight.
"Hey, Z?" Aubrey's shaky voice came from behind her. "You sure you didn't find something after all?"
It took a moment for the words to register in Zoie's mind before she turned back to her friend, ready to say that yes, she had in fact found something, when her friend's expression stilled her movements. Aubrey was a little pale and wide-eyed. "What- ?"
Aubrey held something out to her and Zoie took the sheet of paper with shaking hands. Looking down, her own eyes grew wide as she took in the glossy promotional photo she had treasured. It had been signed, and personalized, and Zoie was taken back to that moment in the hallway when Vincent and Yazoo had engaged her in conversation; asked her questions and shared her company for such a short time, had hugged her… and that kiss!
"Z, look at the back," Aubrey whispered. "Oh, look at the back!"
Zoie flipped the photo over and read the message. Her eyes flicked lower to the phone number and suddenly she felt as though she could fly.
TBC to its conclusion in Out of the Closet IV