Title: Failure Beach
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Cloud, Kadaj, Denzel, Ester
Summary: Cloud drinks, Kadaj races chocobos. It's not really crack.
Notes: From a crackfic meme... "Six unexpectedly meets up with Nine on a secluded beach." For animekittysama.
"Wash up here often?" Cloud asked as he crouched down to double-check that Kadaj was still breathing.
"Not funny," Kadaj replied, his voice little more than a harsh rasp. "Wasn't my idea to do something other than die in peace."
"Here..." Cloud said down beside Kadaj to let the tide lap at the toes of his boots. "He ended up on the Northern Continent and you... down here where I washed up."
"You?" Kadaj asked. Cloud didn't brush away the weak hand that grabbed at him.
"Maybe this is Failure Beach," Cloud commented. The punch he received as a reply barely registered. "There's a doctor not so far away."
"Why are you here, anyway?" Kadaj queried, not at all concerned about covering his nudity or much of anything else as he grabbed at Cloud and tried to pull himself to a sitting position.
Cloud wrapped his arms around Kadaj and held him when he started coughing.
"There are wild chocobos in this part of the world and Denzel is determined to become a jockey."
He wanted to shrug, as if everything was perfectly normal.
But considering the story of his life, perhaps perfectly normal was anything but.
Ester had bought the first round of drinks and Cloud had bought everything after as they watched race after race from the off-stage area of the Gold Saucer. The bar didn't have much selection, but it did have enough to get them both a little tipsy and loose-tongued as the evening wore on.
"You gonna run a race?" Ester asked with a smile on her face. She'd asked him the same question a good five times already.
"Not today," Cloud said again. He clinked his glass against hers and then downed it. "Gonna let the kids try today."
"Know I've seen you with the young one," Ester commented. "But you still haven't told me about the older one."
"Long story," Cloud admitted. "Let's just say I'd rather him do this than anything else."
Ester laughed as if somehow she knew much more than she was letting on. But, considering her lifetime of dealing with chocobo jockeys and their crazed reasoning, well, maybe she did.
"Least they aren't in the same race," she said after a moment. "That would have made for a rough night."
"It might anyway," Cloud replied as he gestured to the bartender. The screens in front of them updated and finally Denzel's race was at the bottom of the listing.
"I have a gal in the next race," Ester suddenly said as she jumped up and staggered a little. "I need to go wish her luck. I'll be right back, Cloud..."
Cloud just offered a slight wave. He was a little unsure that she would be back, but that was only because he was drinking her past even the passable SOLDIER level. But she'd probably had many reasons to drink over the years, himself included.
Three races passed and Ester hadn't come back yet, but Cloud wasn't overly concerned. He placed a few bets and doubled his gil, something he probably wouldn't mention unless tortured. It was nice to have a little extra to spend on trivial things, like trinkets for Marlene who hadn't been able to come with them.
Finally, just as he'd given up on seeing his former manager again, she staggered up and poured herself onto one of the bar stools.
"I'm drunk," she proclaimed and Cloud chuckled.
"I should be," Cloud answered, pointing up at the monitor. "It's Denzel's turn. He's got a good bird."
"You bet on him?" Ester asked as she reached over to finish Cloud's drink. He didn't stop her.
"It's bad luck to bet on your own jockeys," Cloud replied. Somehow, the alcohol in his stomach had not quelled his nerves at all. He slipped his hands under his legs and stared at the monitor.
"He'll be fine," Ester said with a giggle. "I've seen some of these guys race before. Worry more about your other boy - he's in a terrible pack."
"Next race," Cloud said quickly. "Get this one over first."
Ester nodded. The race began.
Even the bartender looked up to watch, despite her attention usually being more on washing dishes than the races going on around them. Cloud had assumed earlier that one could only watch colored birds run around the same tracks so many times before it got infinitely boring -- and he hoped to never reach that point.
"He's doing good," Ester commented midway, breaking up the silence.
And when Denzel came in second, Cloud couldn't help a slightly excited whoop before blushing and settling back in place. Ester just laughed and offered to buy the next round just before Kadaj's race started.
She was right with her comment about the group Kadaj was racing with -- they were a rougher bunch. Cloud frowned when two of the racers nearly ran Kadaj off the track within the first few seconds.
"Dammit," he muttered, glancing over at Ester. She was frowning, but still had her drink in hand.
"Good bird," she said before taking a drink. "Hope your boy lets the others run out of steam before trying to get by 'em."
"Me too," Cloud said as he watched the screen. Kadaj originally hadn't much liked the idea of chocobo racing, but once he'd been out on the plains just running, well, he'd changed his mind. Cloud smirked at the memory and tried to compare it to Kadaj's focused determination apparent even on a row of tiny monitors. His hair wasn't blowing free now, and he was wearing a nice fitted outfit that Tifa and Marlene had made for him - the same colors as Denzel. He'd adjusted, adapted, and moved on.
Cloud knew Kadaj had to be aching to just reach out and injure the other jockeys. For a few seconds he even held his breath. But as they went into the last turn, Cloud let it out and started to smile as Kadaj pulled ahead of the other boys.
"See ya," Cloud said to Ester as he slid off his stool, almost running out of the bar to greet both boys down in the stable area.
He managed to beat Kadaj there, and Denzel eagerly started talking.
"Yes, I saw you both," Cloud said quickly before looking up to see Kadaj leading his obviously-tired bird into the stable.
Kadaj smiled. And so did Cloud.
He knew he'd be drinking with Ester again.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!