Okay. I am still here, everyone! I just want to say a huge thanks for everyone who reviewed my last chapters. There's a better explanation why I haven't updated in months down below.
Chapter 7: Let's cyclone on everyone's parade.
Disclaimer: Same old, same old…
It started on a rainy Tuesday morning; Tifa and Yuffie were picking up their groceries, hair products and such, when Tifa spotted a poster on the wall. Actually, the pink paper and bright yellow stars caught her attention. She dragged Yuffie over to take a look, ignoring the ninja's protests. Her eyes quickly skimmed the ad, and she squealed in delight.
"Loook!!! Oh, what a tremendous opportunity!" Tifa clutched her hands to her chest. Or, tried to at least. "This is so exciting, Yuffie!"
Yuffie pulled her arm free in annoyance. "What, Tifa!?" she grumbled, reading over the notice and being completely unimpressed. "So what? All that stupid girly stuff, WHATever!"
Tifa was entranced. Casting a quick eye to the left and right, she snatched the poster off the wall and stuffed it in her bag. Then she hurried off, leaving Yuffie to carry the groceries.
Cloud was sitting on the porch when the pair returned; Tifa had a broad grin on her face as she danced up the stairs and into the house. It didn't worry him too much… Tifa was usually a cheerful sort of person, right?
Yuffie dragged herself and the groceries onto the porch. Yuffie was also usually fairly chirpy as well… but at the moment she wore an irritated frown.
"She wants to be the next Miss Midgar." Yuffie snorted. "Some stupid girly show."
Cloud looked perplexed. "What's wrong with that?" he questioned.
"Well she wants me to enter as well! That's what's WRONG with it!" Yuffie retorted, leaving the groceries on the wet porch to storm into the house. Cloud scratched his head. 'Women…'
Reno snagged the Midgar Daily from the receptionist on his way into work, flipping through the news as he waited for the elevator. A piece on page 3 grabbed his attention. "Miss Midgar Pageant…" Images of beautiful women strutting across a stage swept through his dirty little mind, and he grinned. The smile was still on his face as he wandered into the Turk offices and sat at his desk.
"Reno, you can read?" An astonished voice distracted him, as Elena gasped theatrically. "Have you been going to special classes?"
Reno shot her his most disgusted glare. She wasn't fazed. "I CAN read, Elena," he retorted, retreating back behind his newspaper.
"Whatever, Reno." Elena yawned, already bored of the conversation. She looked around, waiting for Rude and Tseng to arrive.
"Hey, Laney," Reno asked absently. "Would you ever enter a beauty pageant?"
"Like one of those Miss Midgar and Miss Gongaga things?" Elena snorted. "As if. Beauty pageants are sexist, and whoever enters them are usually vapid blonds who exist only for men's pleasure."
"Uhm…" Reno paused. 'I always knew she was a closet feminist...' he thought with a smirk.
"Usually the sort of women you go after, Reno." Elena concluded with disdain. "The stupid blonde type."
"The only stupid blonde I go after is you, Elena dearest." Reno rolled his eyes. 'I forgot to mention closet bitch as well…'
"Excuse me for NOT being flattered." Elena turned her nose up and huffed, turning her chair away from him. Argument over.
'Ok,' Reno mused to himself. 'If she mentions the toilet incident once, I'm gonna make her enter that pageant… that's a fair deal.' He nodded to himself, and turned to the sport section of his paper.
The door opened, and Rude and Tseng entered, the latter holding several folders stuffed with paper.
"Good morning!" Elena chirped with a malicious smirk as Tseng confiscated Reno's newspaper.
"I've got this weeks assignments from Rufus," he announced in a slightly sour tone, giving a folder to each Turk, and tucking the last one under his arm.
Reno muttered something unintelligible and stuffed his folder in a drawer before even looking at it. "I never thought I'd say I want Reeve back," he commented darkly, as Elena and Rude began to skim through their files.
"Irrelevant." Tseng's eyebrows folded together in an angry scowl. "So get to work."
He ordered, before striding to his personal office and slamming the door behind him.
Elena cast a curious look at the closed door. "Someone's not in a good mood today," she remarked. "I wonder what's his problem?"
Rude didn't answer, and Reno didn't feel like telling her that, obviously, it was Rufus being a prat, as per usual, that was pissing off her boss. Instead, he ran his hands through his bright red hair, rubbed his eyes, and decided that he was bored.
"Rude, do you wanna swap assignments?" He offered, looking up at him.
"… you haven't even looked at yours yet…" Rude's trailed off, like usual.
Elena raised an eyebrow over her assignment. "Why do you want to change, Reno? Just in case you get toilet duty again?" She teased, amusement flaring in her brown eyes. "And I was so sure that you actually enjoyed falling into one."
"You're gonna regret that one, Elena." Reno frowned and stood up. But instead of going over and trying to hurt her like he usual would, he just left the room. Quite calmly, actually.
Even Rude looked confused. "Reno fell in a toilet?"
Elena snickered, both relieved and apprehensive that Reno didn't go after her with something sharp and/or electric. "I didn't mean to trip him, really."
Rude nodded. "…"
Tifa was still in a slightly euphoric sort of daze, taking out the pageant poster and gazing at it every so often. It was slightly sickening.
The others didn't know what to say. Barret and Cid didn't even want to know, and Cait Sith was only interested because he wanted to see Tifa humiliate herself in public.
"Ugh, this is so pathetic I'm gonna barf," Yuffie groaned. She was lying on the old couch, her limbs dangling off the edges. "Only stupid blondes can do stupid stuff like that. Tifa's lost her marbles."
Cloud was trying to be supportive. "Yuffie," he said in his most fatherly, responsible voice. "We should support Tifa, if that's what she wants to do. After all, it makes her happy, right?"
Yuffie looked into Cloud's bright blue eyes. They were so earnest and sincere. "Now I'm REALLY gonna puke!" Yuffie mock-gagged for everyone's benefit. "If you don't win anything cool, then what's the point of looking like an idiot on stage?!"
"Hmm…" Cloud nudged Yuffie's legs off the couch and sat down. "Well, they say that the prestige and national recognition is enough."
"I said 'valuable', Cloud." The ninja retorted, rolling her eyes. "Uugghhh, I totally don't care. I'm not leaving. You guys go to Midgar and I'll stay at the nice, warm sunny beach, which is way nicer than Midgar will ever be. Hmph."
Thunder rumbled outside, and the lights flickered.
Cid stuck his head in the doorway. "Yo, Spike, I heard there's a cyclone headed this way. We're takin' off in the Highwind, get somewhere not $%&%$in' crazy weathered."
Yuffie moaned, curling her hands protectively around her stomach. "Noo, I'd rather stay in crazy weather than get in your stinky crappy ship."
"The Highwind is NOT stinky OR crappy, you little BRAT!" Cid retorted, looking highly offended.
"It is TOO!"
Cloud sighed. Leaving the two to their fight, he noticed Vincent watching the rain from the front window. Strange; he hadn't noticed him there before… oh well.
"So what do you think about beauty pageants, Vincent?" he asked, coming to stand beside the ex-Turk.
Vincent didn't change expression. "They say that true beauty comes from inside," he murmured.
Left unspoken was that Vincent couldn't give a damn about pageants, but Cloud kind of figured that out on his own.
"Well…" he cleared his throat. "Tifa wants to go, but you can stay here. I think everyone's taking off before a cyclone hits." Which was fair enough, he silently added.
"The cyclone will pass." Vincent replied simply.
"Who died and made you weatherman?" Cid snorted, having overheard the last comment.
Tifa bounced into the room. "Cloud, there's a 500 gil entry fee." She stated, looking innocent and pleading and batted her eyes for extra affect.
"That's okay." Cloud said, proudly being the only reasonable person in the entire house. "I'll pay it."
"Are you gonna pay for the dress? And the swimsuit too?" Yuffie interrupted rudely, swooping in and snatching the pageant poster out of Tifa's hands. Her eyes ran over the information. "So… there's an entrance fee, and there's a dress thing, and a swimsuit thing," she shuddered, "and a talent… you need to be talented to win?!" she sniggered. Offering Tifa a consoling look, she said, "I'm sorry Tifa, but I don't think you'll make it past the swimsuits. You see, you actually have to be talented-" Yuffie danced backwards, successfully avoiding Tifa's nails that were heading fast in her direction.
"Now, girls," Cloud hastened to get between them. "We all know Tifa is very talented…"
"She can cook eggs on stage," Cait Sith remarked, appearing from nowhere. Cid and Yuffie began to snigger, but halted due to Tifa sending them dangerous glares.
Cloud sighed again.
"Oh yeah, Vince," Cait Sith continued. "There was mail for you this morning."
Vincent turned away from the window and fastened a slightly nasty look on the moogle. "It's early evening now." He observed coolly. "Did it take all day for you to get from the mailbox to the house?"
Cait Sith withered under Vincent's icy gaze. "Ok ok!" The cat finally squeaked, thrusting the letter in his direction. Vincent took it, and calmly read it.
There was a moment of silence.
"Well?" Cid finally demanded. "No one ever gets %&$#in' mail here. It's gotta be somethin' good." He added, slightly defensive.
Vincent's voice was completely neutral. "I have been asked by the Midgar Council to be one of the judges of the Miss Midgar Pageant."
Yuffie bit back a laugh.
"Failure to do so will cause in a 100,000 gil fine." Vincent finished, and his glare dared anyone to express amusement.
"…well." Cloud finally said. "We can't really argue with that, now, can we?"
"Yes, we can." Vincent retorted. Was that a pout forming on his pale face? Never…
"Shut up and get in the $%#$in' plane." Cid snapped, successfully ending the argument before it even began.
Reno gave the wooden door a firm knock. After a moment, the doors opened, and he entered, sauntering up the set of stairs, and coming face to face with Rufus.
Who, as usual, was sitting with his feet kicked up on the desk, watching surveillance tapes.
"Do you ever actually work, Reno?" the so-called President of Neo-Shinra remarked dryly.
"I could ask you the same question." Reno retorted smoothly, shoving some papers off the desk and sitting on the corning.
Rufus growled. "What do you want, anyway?"
Reno smiled. "A favour."
Rufus' eyes narrowed.
Reno continued without even noticing the scepticism. "I was reading the newspaper this morning-"
"You can read?!" Rufus exclaimed in mock-surprise.
Reno's eyes narrowed into thin slits. "I CAN read," he grated out.
Rufus just nodded. "Go on."
Reno took a calming breath. "There's a Miss Midgar pageant on, and-"
"You feel like cross dressing? Again?" Rufus interrupted again, the same look of surprise on his flawless features. "You know what the police said last time they caught you…"
"If you don't let me finish, I'm going to throw you face first down the stairs." Reno said, his calm voice making the threat much more deadly.
"Ok, ok…" Rufus rolled his eyes and folded his arms behind his head. "Go on."
"…So I thought it might be a good idea to promote a more equal-gender based Neo-Shinra." Reno finally finished.
Rufus raised an eyebrow. "Why? There's only 3 women working here." He paused. "What's your point?"
"If we put Elena in the pageant, we're showing the masses that we're not just an elite group of nasty businessmen, but Neo-Shinra employs good, normal people as well."
Reno had no idea where he was pulling this shit from, but it sounded good to him.
Rufus was not fooled. "This is about Elena pushing you into a toilet, isn't it." He said bluntly. "Not that I blame you; that must've been highly unpleasant…" In response to Reno's look of complete, pure surprise, Rufus laughed. "Did you think I wasn't going to watch?"
Reno stayed silent, his mako-blue eyes boring holes into the carpet. 'How fucking embarrassing,' he thought.
Rufus watched the Turk for a moment, and made his decision. "Okay. I'll go in and tell her myself."
Reno looked at his boss in surprise. "You will?"
Rufus grinned. "Of course. All that bullshit you were talking might be right… but seeing Elena have to wear a swimsuit will be entertaining as a bonus."
"Don't mention that this was my idea… Sir." Reno asked, a sly grin spreading over his face. 'This is perfect.'
Half an hour later, when the four Turks were hard at work researching their assignments, Rufus made his entrance.
They stood; Reno keeping his eyes downcast lest they betray him.
"Sir." Tseng said tonelessly.
"Ohh, cheer up Tseng," Rufus told him breezily. He turned to Elena. "Forget your assignments for this week."
Elena blinked in surprise; Tseng was also looking sharply at Rufus. "What is this about?" He spoke for her.
"I heard this morning that the Miss Midgar Pageant is on again…"
Elena shot a murderous glare at Reno, who returned the look with a completely innocent one of his own.
"… and to increase support of a more 'rounded' organization…" Rufus continued.
This was your idea, Elena mouthed at Reno.
"…we want people to know that we're normal people just like them…"
Reno shook his head in emphatic denial.
"…and since there's so few women in the organization…"
I am going to kill you, Elena said soundlessly, and she meant every word.
"…Elena is the perfect candidate to enter. A Turk running for Miss Midgar is perfect." Rufus finished. "The polls will go through the roof. The people need to know that even the Turks are people just like they are, and that we're not a male-based organization."
Tseng was staring dumbfounded at him. "Uhh, Sir?"
"Isn't the fact that the Turks are a highly elite section of Neo-Shinra meant to put fear into our adversaries? Won't this get rid of the protection we create for ourselves?"
"Hmm. Good point." Rufus nodded. Reno shot him a slightly pleading look.
"Still…" Rufus continued. "It doesn't matter. Elena is going to show the citizens of Midgar that Neo-Shinra is staffed by people, not a tyrant."
"…But you are." Rude pointed out impassively.
Rufus shot him a confused glance. "Yes, so?" He shrugged. "The people don't need to know that. They need to know that we're a group of hardworking, normal people."
Tseng was still lost as to why he needed to sacrifice one of his staff for this… travesty.
Sensing Tseng's displeasure, Rufus added, "This conversation is over. Elena, apply for the Pageant before the end of the day."
And with that, he strolled out, leaving three very confused Turks, and a secretly satisfied Reno.
"Reno," Elena turned to face the red-haired Turk, who was still looking completely innocent. "Words really can't describe how much you're going to regret this." She stated simply.
Reno snickered, throwing himself onto the couch. Shifting around a little to get comfortable, he remarked, "That sounded familiar. Now where have I heard that before." He snapped his fingers, as if he just recalled. "Oh, now I remember. I think I said those same words to you, Laney dear."
Elena's left eye began to twitch. She turned to Tseng as a last resort. "Sir? Please don't make me do this!"
Tseng didn't like it; but he really didn't have a choice. "I'm sorry." He said simply.
"Noo!" Elena wailed, collapsing at her desk and covering her face with her hands. "Reno, I hate you!"
And from the couch, Reno thought that they were the best words he'd heard all day.
Please don't tell me how it's been since I last updated… Blame my lack of computer! Anyways, now that I own one that actually works again… expect more regular updates.
This was done in one sitting, so it's not gonna be word-perfect. Sorry, I just wanted to get this out!
Anyway, all your comments were very appreciated, especially Mike Danko and BlueBubbles... Your comments out of the blue got me going again, so thanks a lot!
(I will now pimp for reviews)
Next time: Enter the pageant. Aeris returns, and she's going after the title. Yuffie gets blackmailed into entering, and Sephiroth makes an appearance.