#152 – Strip Away Your Problems

Dante: “Not vampires, if that’s what you’re wondering.” *grins* “Nice fangs, gorgeous.”

Originally Published: 1/4/06 . 46 pages

Synopsis
Richter convinces Tifa to drop Cloud off at the new Video Game Character Therapy center, which is run by Koudelka and former patient Yuri. They promise they’ll help him get over his ‘RPG Main Character Syndrome’ which is causing his current state. Meanwhile, Rufus builds some condos and some new people move in, and a strip club opens up in town! Things sure are changing!

Ramble Milestones
-First appearance of: Dante, Lloyd, Koudelka, Yuri, Solid Snake, The Wild Arms Gang, and Serge.
-First appearance of the Video Game Character Therapy Center and The Hot Package.

It’s a new character explosion! Let’s tackle them one at a time. I needed other patients for the RPG main character group. Serge and Rudy were obvious choices because they are non speaking main characters. I needed someone to run the therapy center – I’ve never played Koudelka myself, but I watched it be played and I enjoyed it. I thought she had some qualifications as a psychic. It was also suggested to me that I use Yuri from Shadow Hearts as her sidekick, since he had some main character issues. Even though I knew nothing about him, it made sense that Koudelka wouldn’t be doing this alone. I love Solid Snake as a character and he was so easy to make fun of – I thought having him move in would add a little something different. And finally there’s Dante. And Lloyd. I’ll admit it – Dante was added just to date Alucard. I knew about the Devil May Cry games and the character, of course, but the idea of adding him to the rambles didn’t pop into my head until I saw his picture in a magazine. And I immediately knew he was the guy for Alucard. In doing some research on the character, I discovered he seemed to dislike properly wearing a shirt, and there was that one part where he swings around a stripper pole pretty well. That’s how the strip club came about. And Lloyd was born because I was told Dante had a brother. Named Lloyd. Whoops – I soon found out his actual name is Vergil. I didn’t like that name, so I decided to stick with Lloyd.

(we open at the belmont estate, where richter is sitting on the couch. Tifa is chasing after cloud who keeps trying to touch things he shouldn’t…)

Tifa: “No, Cloud! Leave that alone! No!! Don’t touch that!! Cloud! Stop it!” *out of breath* “Argh! I feel like I already have a baby!”

(richter is quite fed up at this point. He gets up, grabs cloud and shoves him down on the couch.)

Richter: “Tifa, I’ve had enough of this…this…guy. You can’t be chasing around after this brain dead fool in your condition! You need your rest!”

Tifa: *sits* “But someone has to take care of Cloud! Look at him!”

(they both look at cloud.)

Cloud: *holding his hand in front of his face* “What’s this?”

Richter: “You know… I think Cloud could use some professional help.”

Tifa: “I’ve tried that. But the doctor said Cloud has to sort through his problems on his own! And until he does he’ll never be the same.”

Richter: “But I found a special place for him. It’s a center for video game characters who have problems they need to work on. And one of the problems they treat is RPG Main Character Syndrome.”

Tifa: “RPG Main Character Syndrome? What’s that?”

Richter: “It’s when the main character of an RPG game has issues they refuse to overcome. In severe cases it can lead to behavior like Cloud’s.”

(they both look at cloud again)

Cloud: *finger heading for his eye* “This looks pointy…”

Tifa: *grabs his hand* “Cloud – no!” *sigh* “I don’t know about that Richter…”

Richter: “Tifa, darling, do you really think you can take care of an infant and *him* at the same time? He needs help!”

Tifa: *still looks unsure*

Richter: “They do offer tours of the facility. How about we take one? Just keep an open mind about it.”

Tifa: “Well, all right…”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, over at the ramble room, lark is standing outside with sephiroth. They’re both staring across the street where, next to the belmonts house, some condos have been built.)

Lark: *blink blink* “What the hell are those condos for?”

Sephiroth: “I don’t know.”

Lark: “Rufus owns that land…you think he built condos?”

Sephiroth: “I wouldn’t put it past him.”

Lark: “But why? Why would he build condos?”

Sephiroth: “I don’t know, woman! Do I look like the magic 8 ball to you?”

Lark: *looks at him* “…You still have that thing?”

Sephiroth: “Of course!”

(then rufus, algus, zidane and reeve come towards them from the condos across the street)

Rufus: “Good afternoon!”

Lark: “Rufus! What are those condos doing there?”

Rufus: “You like them? Reeve designed them.”

Reeve: “I was going for a–“

Rufus: “Reeve – that wasn’t an invitation to speak.”

Lark: “Yeah, they look nice…but…what are they for?”

Rufus: “For rent of course! There was a lot of demand for homes in the area, what with the growing businesses in the area, so I had some condos built! I’ve already rented them all out! The tenants are moving in tonight!”

Sephiroth: “Who’s moving in!? What we need in this neighborhood are some vampire hunter hunters!”

Rufus: “I’m not sure what they do. All I know is that they all passed the credit check!”

Algus: “That’s the most important thing of all!”

Zidane: *frowns* “I wanted to live in one.”

Algus: “Slave, you aren’t even fit to live in the closet of one of those.”

Lark: “Rufus… I hope some nice people are moving in there… It’s bad enough we already have the losers nearby…”

Sephiroth: “And the Belmont’s!”

Lark: “I like the Belmont’s!”

Sephiroth: “Someone has to!”

Algus: “Don’t worry, Lark! People with money are always the type of people you want in your community.”

Lark: “That’s not true! Hojo’s rich and he’s a disgusting skeeve!”

Rufus: “Don’t worry, Lark. I wouldn’t let anyone like Hojo move in! Trust me!” *big smile*

(lark and sephiroth look at each other uncertainly…)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the next day. Richter and tifa step into the ‘Video Game Character Therapy Center’. They’re in a reception room, and there are several people in unusual clothing standing at the desk. One is a thin girl with long black hair and a green dress, another is a guy with blonde hair and a scar on his cheek carrying a sword, another has longish blue hair and is carrying an axe, and another one is a big, burly guy with a mustache who looks like a pirate. Can you guess what game these characters are from just from my vague description? If so, you’re awesome! Anyway, there’s a woman in a nurse’s uniform behind it.)

Nurse: “I’m sorry but I can’t have all 44 of you walking in and out of here at all hours! He can’t have so many visitors at once. I’ve told you this before!”

Blonde guy: “But we only wish to see our friend!”

Nurse: “You can! In small groups! Not 44 people at one time! And no animals!”

Thin girl: “But–“

Nurse: “No buts! We have a strict policy on non-humans unless they’re patients or it’s special circumstances! So please keep the lisping dog, the straw guy, the mushroom guy, the alien, the dragon, the turnip guy, and those two other weird looking creatures out. And tell that cat guy he’s on thin ice with me!”

Blue haired guy: “What about our robot friend then!”

Nurse: “Robots are okay.”

Pirate guy: “And what about the skeleton guy?”

Nurse: “Look! I can’t keep making up new policies for whatever kind of weirdoes you people keep picking off the street! No wonder Serge hasn’t spoken in ages! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have other things to do!”

(tifa and richter watch as riddel, glenn, karsh and fargo from chrono cross exit looking grumpy. They step up to the desk, but just as they’re about to speak the phone rings. The nurse holds one finger up telling them to hold on a moment and answers the phone)

Nurse: “Hello? …No. …No! …No! You couldn’t pay, and that’s the end of it! …I don’t care if that’s all you could hold in your pouch or whatever. Then get a bigger pouch! …No, that’s my final word on it! You and everybody else from Legend of Dragoon are banned from here forever! Now take your stupid pouch that holds three items and get lost!” *slams down the phone* “I should block that number!” *looks up at tifa and richter* “Hi, there. Sorry to keep you waiting.”

Richter: “I am Richter Belmont! And this is Tifa Lockhart.”

Nurse: “I know. I’m Koudelka Iasant, founder of the VGCTC. Are you ready for your tour?”

Tifa: “Uh…I guess so.”

(koudelka starts off down the hallway and they follow her)

Richter: “You…certainly do run a tight ship!”

Koudelka: “We provide the best treatment here, and we expect nothing but the best from our patients and their visitors.”

Richter: “So you have boarding here?”

Koudelka: “For extreme cases like Cloud’s, yes. Most of our patients are out-patients who just come in for therapy sessions.”

Tifa: “I don’t want to sound rude, but what makes you qualified to run a place like this? Are you a doctor?”

Koudelka: “No, but I am psychic. I know what people are thinking.”

Tifa: “You do?”

Koudelka: “Certainly. Like right now, you’re thinking about how you don’t like the idea of leaving Cloud in a place like this.”

Tifa: *eyes get wide*

Koudelka: “Trust me, it’s the best thing for him.”

(she opens up a door and they all step inside. They can see four guys. One is yuri from shadow hearts. He’s holding a clipboard. One is rudy from wild arms. Another is serge from chrono cross. And the other one is…squall??)

Tifa: “Squall??”

Koudelka: “Yes, he’s our only out-patient in this group. His girlfriend signed him up. Says he doesn’t talk enough. But compared to these other guys he’s a chatterbox.”

Richter: “Can they see us?”

Koudelka: “No, all our therapy rooms have two way mirrors. It allows us to observe the patients better. As you can see there our peer counselor is Yuri. He was once a patient.”

Tifa: “Peer counselor?”

Koudelka: “Each group has a character like them who guides the discussion. Gives the patients someone to relate to. The counselor doesn’t necessarily have the same problem as them, but they have the same basic status in the game.”

Yuri: “So…how is everyone doing today?”

Serge: “………”

Rudy: “………”

Squall: “Whatever.”

Tifa: *blink blink* “You’re right. Squall is the chatterbox.”

Koudelka: “This is our most intense group. RPG Main Character Syndrome makes for some angsty, confused men.”

Richter: “Do the other two patients ever speak?”

Koudelka: “Serge has never spoken once. Rudy will occasionally hum circus music or mumble about other circus related things.”

Tifa and Richter: *blink blink*

Koudelka: “Even I don’t understand it. Every time I try to read his mind all I get is the circus music.”

Tifa and Richter: *blink blink*

Koudelka: “I know. I don’t know *what* happened to him. Anyway, follow me.”

(so they leave that room and continue down the hall.)

Koudelka: “This next group is our newest. There are only two in this group right now, but I know we’ll see more soon. It’s the group for characters who are desperately in love with another character who can’t love them back.”

(richter gives tifa a look as they step into the next room. Inside the room is princess peach who looks bored while aeris and celes cry hysterically)

Tifa: “Aeris?!” *gulp* “Uh, you’re sure they can’t see us, right?”

Koudelka: “Don’t worry, they can’t see you.”

Aeris: *sobs* “Oh, Cloud! Why won’t you love me!!?!?!?!”

Celes: *sobs* “Oh Locke! Why did you have to love that stupid girl in the coma instead of me!?!?! I sang opera for you!”

Peach: *sighs and looks at watch* “I don’t know why I volunteered for this.”

Tifa: “I’ve seen enough.”

Koudelka: *knowing look* “I bet you have. Let’s see our last group.”

(they leave the room and head back down the hallway)

Koudelka: “This is a group for villains where they can feel free to truly express what they’re feeling.”

(they go into another room and are behind the two way mirror again. In the other room is the entire video game villain of the year award committee except dracula, so that includes bowser, nightmare, nemesis, and dedede. Also there is liquid snake, berserk from the quarter knights, a jar with some water in it, some guy wearing a sweatshirt hood up so you can’t see his face, bowser appears to be the peer counselor.)

Bowser: “Okay, let’s go around the room and air our grievances for this week. I know the Princess is two rooms over with the other therapy group, but I have no desire to capture her, because I know Mario is on vacation.” *hangs head* “I guess you can say I just like the attention.”

Nemesis: *nods understandingly* “STARS…”

Bowser: “And then I bought my daughter the wrong Barbie! She was so mad at me!!” *sigh* It’s hard being a dad and a super villain sometimes.”

Nightmare: “Nightmare is so sick of fighting! Nightmare got ambushed three times on the way over here! The smell of blood is starting to make Nightmare sick!”

Nemesis: “STARS!”

Liquid Snake: “I thought my brother was supposed to be better than me. Then I find out I’m the one with the better genes, but he still kicked my ass! How do you think that makes me feel?!”

Berserk: “I just want to fight all the time! Yesterday I punched a wall for half an hour! For no reason! And then I went and ate a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s.” *sigh* “I feel so fat…”

Jar With Water: *slosh slosh slosh slosh*

Bowser: “So true, Sin. So true.”

Sweatshirt guy: “Other villains don’t take me seriously! Being an evil monopoly is bad too! People like money! They don’t like when you take it away!”

Bowser: “What did you say your name was again…Mr….?”

Sweatshirt guy: “Mr. Shin–er…Shinro.”

Bowser: “You mean Shinra? Like Rufus Shinra?”

“Shinro”: “No!!” *cough* “No! I think I might have heard of that guy – he’s pretty darn evil – but no. No. That’s not me. But that guy is cool. I wish I were him.”

Bowser: “Uh-huh… Anyway, Dedede? Do you have something to say?”

Dedede: “Yeah. Yeah I have something to say!” *quack* “My nemesis is a pink, marshmallow blob! Yeah! I get my butt kicked by a stupid, powder puff! How can I show my face anymore?! I mean he’s freakin’ pink! And he’s a #$%^@*% marshmallow!” *quack* “Argh! It makes me so mad! That #$!@#$!@% #$%@#%@#% !#^@#%@#% #$%!$%!@#%!#^%!%!@#$ @#%!#$%!%!@#$%! !$%!%!@#$@!…”

(dedede trails off into a tirade of angry quacking while everyone else looks shocked. Finally, bowser steps in)

Bowser: “It’s okay, Dedede. We’re all here to help one another.”

(then suddenly the door breaks down and Siegfried from soul caliber bursts in)

Siegfried: “Nightmare! I’ve found you at last!”

Nightmare: “No! This is supposed to be Nightmare’s special place!”

Koudelka: “Dammit! Not again!”

(in a flash she’s out of the room and barges into the room with the villains. She grabs Siegfried by the collar and starts dragging him out)

Koudelka: “No fighting! You’ve been warned before! Now don’t come back!”

(she drags him out of the room. In all the excitement, the guy with the sweatshirt’s hood has fallen off and everyone can clearly see it’s rufus.)

Tifa: “Oh, look. It’s Rufus.”

Richter: “So what do you think, Tifa?”

Tifa: *sigh* “Well, it seems like Cloud isn’t getting any better in my care. Anything’s worth a shot. I just want him to get better!”

(then koudelka comes back in, brushing off her hands)

Koudelka: “Sorry about that. That’s the fourth time this week! Anyway, that concludes the tour. Any questions?”

Richter: “Can we bring Cloud in later?”

Tifa: “Yeah.”

Koudelka: “Anytime is fine. And bring your payment. No excuses.” *smiles*

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, it’s nighttime now, and sephiroth finds himself taking out the garbage at the ramble room…and he doesn’t look happy about it.)

Sephiroth: *grumbles* “Stupid chores wheel. Nine gazillion people on it, and just my luck it lands on me.”

(he drags the garbage pails to the curb and then sees alucard coming over)

Sephiroth: “I’m not late! You said not to come over till ten!”

Alucard: “I know. I’m looking for Ceberus. Have you seen him?”

Sephiroth: “He’s missing again? You need to get a better chain for that beast!”

Alucard: “It’s not the chain! It’s dad! He keeps saying Ceberus needs to stretch his legs.”

Sephiroth: “If he stretched his legs he’d take out the whole block!” *sigh* “Well I haven’t seen him.”

Alucard: *sigh* “Well I know Franswa hasn’t seen him.” *looks over at the condos* “What’s that?”

Sephiroth: “What’s what?”

Alucard: “Those condos.”

Sephiroth: “Rufus had them built so he can collect more money. Apparently people moved in last night.”

Alucard: “Oh. Well let’s go ask them then!”

(he starts walking in that direction and sephiroth chases after him)

Sephiroth: “Alucard, I’m no hospitality expert, but I’m pretty sure nothing says welcome to the neighborhood worse than asking if they’ve seen your escaped three-headed hellhound!”

(but alucard doesn’t listen. Instead he just knocks on the first door.)

????: *from the other side of the door* “Who is it?”

Alucard: “My name is Alucard. I’m one of your neighbors.”

(the door opens and there’s a tall, handsome guy standing there. He’s got longish blonde hair pulled back into a pony tail, a five o’clock shadow and is wearing cowboyish clothes, but no hat. It’s jack from wild arms)

Jack: “Hey. Nice to meetcha. I’m Jack.” *looks at sephiroth* “Who’re you?”

Sephiroth: “Sephiroth. The greatest guy you’ll ever meet.”

Jack: “We’ll see about that.”

Alucard: “Don’t mind him. I’m wondering if you’ve seen…any large animals wandering around the neighborhood tonight.”

Jack: “Like a bear or something?”

Sephiroth: “If he thinks a bear is big he obviously hasn’t seen the dog.”

Voice from another room: “Jack? Who’re you talking to?”

Jack: “Our new neighbors!”

(a girl comes out of the back. She’s got big eyes and short blonde hair. It’s Cecilia, also of wild arms)

Cecilia: “Oh! Hello! I’m Cecilia! It’s nice to meet you!”

Jack: “You see any big animals wandering around tonight?”

Cecilia: “Um, no?”

Jack: “Sorry, can’t help ya.”

Alucard: “It’s all right. Thanks anyway.”

Sephiroth: “So what kind of rent is Rufus charging you on this place?”

Jack: “5,000 a month.”

Sephiroth: “5,000?! And you and your girlfriend here can afford that?!”

Cecilia: *giggles* “I’m not his girlfriend!”

Sephiroth: “Okay…sister?”

Cecilia: “No! We’re just friends!”

Jack: “We’re staying here while our friend Rudy gets some professional help.”

Alucard: “Is he an alcoholic?”

Jack: “Nah, he’s just a mute who sometimes mumbles stuff about the clowns and the circus.”

Sephiroth: *shudders* “Clowns…”

Alucard: “I see. Well, we best be on our way. It was nice to have met you.”

Cecilia: “You too!”

Jack: “See ya around.”

(so jack closes the door and sephiroth and alucard move on to the next door.)

Alucard: “They seemed perfectly nice.”

Sephiroth: “I don’t know if I like the idea of having people who are friends with clown obsessed freaks in the neighborhood.”

(alucard just knocks on the next door. And then there’s a long period of silence)

Sephiroth: “Guess nobody’s home. Let’s go.”

Alucard: *softly* “Wait. Listen.”

(they fall silent and lean towards the door, listening. Sure enough they can hear someone talking inside…)

?????: “Otakon? Otakon! Can you read me, Otakon!? There’s someone coming! I heard a knocking noise! What should I do!? ……Otakon! Why won’t you answer?!”

(sephiroth and alucard exchange a look)

Alucard: “What is ‘Otakon’?”

Sephiroth: “I don’t know, but I have a feeling we should move on.”

Alucard: *nods*

(and then they move on to the last door. Alucard knocks and a second later a really handsome guy answers the door, causing alucard’s jaw to drop. The guy has short silver hair and is wearing leather pants and an open black shirt revealing his very nice body. Alucard stares at him and sephiroth looks annoyed)

Guy: “Hey there. I don’t remember ordering a hottie with my pizza.”

Sephiroth: “Look, I know I’m hot, but you don’t have to be a skank about it!”

Guy: “I wasn’t talking to you.” *smiles at alucard*

Alucard: *blushes* “Uh, um, ah, uh, hello there. Nice to meet your acquaintance. I’m Alucard.”

Guy: “And I’m Dante Sparda.”

Sephiroth: *frowns* “And I’m Sephiroth. But we were looking for a dog, not a manwhore, so if you’ll excuse us…”

(he pulls on alucard’s arm but alucard doesn’t move.)

Alucard: “I was looking for my dog Ceberus. Have you seen him?”

Dante: “Cerberus?”

Alucard: “Uh, no. *Ceb*erus.”

Dante: *knowing look* “Big, three-headed thing with a hunger for blood?”

Alucard: “Uh…yeah.”

Dante: “Yeah. I saw him running back towards that castle over there.”

Alucard: *sigh of relief* “Oh, good. That would be my house.”

Dante: “Nice cover-up with the name.”

Alucard: “Heh…thanks.”

Sephiroth: “Okay! Dog’s been located. Let’s go.”

(again he tugs at alucard’s arm, but alucard still doesn’t move.)

Dante: “Your hair looks good…”

Alucard: “Thank you.”

Sephiroth: *more frowns* “What about *my* hair?”

Dante: “Shimmery Silver Streaks?”

Alucard: “Of course. You?”

Dante: “You know it. I’m the best…so I only use the best.” *grins*

Sephiroth: “Right. And tell me, guy who can’t button his shirt, just how you can afford the high rent on this condo *and* buy expensive shampoo.”

Dante: “I don’t like buttoning my shirts… It’s too constricting. And I split the rent with my brother Lloyd.”

?????: *from the back* “My name is Vergil! You $#%^*($ jackass!”

Dante: “Don’t mind, Lloyd. He’s not a nice boy.”

Lloyd’s voice: “It’s Vergil! You asshole!”

Dante: “We’re like the odd couple…except we hate each other.”

Alucard: *frowns* “I don’t like my brother either.”

Dante: *looks at sephiroth* “I don’t blame you.”

Sephiroth: *fuming* “I’m not his brother! I’m his boyfriend, you asshole!”

Lloyd’s voice: “You’re an asshole, Dante!”

Alucard: “So what does your brother do?”

Dante: “Who cares? He’s a loser.”

Lloyd’s voice: “You’re a loser, Dante!”

Alucard: “Well what do you do?”

Dante: *grins* “I’m a stripper.”

Sephiroth: *blink blink* “You’re a *what*?!”

Dante: “I’m a stripper. And I fight demons if they come after me or get in my way. But that’s more like a hobby.”

Alucard: *looks wary* “Demons, huh…? Uh…what kind of demons?”

Dante: “Not vampires, if that’s what you’re wondering.” *grins* “Nice fangs, gorgeous.”

Alucard: *blushes*

Sephiroth: “Okay, Alucard! I think we’ve worn out our welcome!”

Alucard: “I’m actually only half vampire. And Alucard isn’t even my real name. It’s Adrian.”

Sephiroth: *annoyed* “Alucard…”

Dante: “Really? Well, believe it or not, Lloyd and me are half demon.”

Lloyd’s voice: “It’s #$%^(@# Vergil, you ass!”

Alucard: “Really?!”

Sephiroth: *getting more annoyed* “Alucard…”

Dante: “Yup. That means I’m gonna be this sexy forever.”

Alucard: *very interested* “*Really*…”

Sephiroth: “Okay! This visit is over. It was not nice to meet you. Say good-bye now, Alucard.”

Alucard: “I’ll see you later.”

Dante: *winks* “You bet on it.”

(sephiroth grabs alucard by the arm and jerks him away from the doorway and starts pulling him down the road)

Alucard: “Well he was certainly nice.”

Sephiroth: “Nice!? He was undressing you with his eyes! I’ve never seen anyone act that skanky! He’s worse than Reno, Irvine and Tseng combined!”

Alucard: “He was simply being friendly!”

Sephiroth: “Friendly?! I thought he was gonna jump you right in front of me!”

(alucard yanks his arm out of sephiroth’s grasp and they stand there in the middle of the street looking at each other)

Alucard: “Are you jealous?”

Sephiroth: “Jealous? Hardly! You’re already with the best!”

Alucard: *looks annoyed* “I’m going to bed. Good night.”

(and with that he heads off towards home)

Sephiroth: “Now I know you’re lying! You’re a vampire! This is prime time for you!” *pause* “Alucard!!” *pause* “ALUCARD!”

(but alucard doesn’t come back.)

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 

(meanwhile, tifa and richter are taking cloud into the center where koudelka is waiting for him. Richter is holding a suitcase.)

Koudelka: “Hey again.” *looks at cloud* “And you must be Cloud.”

Cloud: “I saw a kitty!”

Koudelka: *blink blink* “Well. Maybe he’s not quite as severe as I thought.”

Richter: “There were no cats.”

Koudelka: “…Never mind then. Okay, well say your good-byes and we’ll get Cloud settled.”

Tifa: “We have to say good-bye already?”

Richter: “Tifa, it’s best that Cloud gets used to his new home.”

Tifa: *frowns* “Well… I guess you’re right.” *hugs cloud* “Oh, Cloud! Get better!”

Cloud: “Where is sideways?”

Richter: *gently pulling her away* “Come now, Tifa. He’ll be fine.”

Tifa: *is crying* “I’ll miss you, Cloud! Be good!”

(and with that koudelka picks up cloud’s suitcase and leads him back into the center.)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(and onto the next day. In the morning, sephiroth shuffles into the TV room in his pajama bottoms where lark sits watching tv and having some orange juice with rufus)

Lark: “Good morning, Sephy!”

Rufus: *looking at the pajama pants* “Are those bats?”

Sephiroth: “Shut up. Alucard gave them to me. And speaking of Alucard, I like how you let whoever can scrounge up 5,000 a month move in across the street!”

Rufus: “What? What’s wrong with Jack and Cecilia?”

Lark: “Jack and Cecilia? From Wild Arms?”

Rufus: “Yeah.”

Sephiroth: “No, not them.”

Rufus: “What’s wrong with Solid Snake then?”

Lark: “Solid Snake?! He moved into the condos?!”

Rufus: “Yeah, why?”

Lark: “…No reason…”

Sephiroth: “Is that the freak who kept talking to Otakon?”

Rufus: “He can talk to the ceiling for all I care. As long as his rent’s on time!”

Sephiroth: “No, not him. The other guy! With his stupid brother!”

Rufus: “Oh! You mean Dante and Vergil?”

Lark: “You mean from Devil May Cry?”

Rufus: “Yeah, that’s the pair.”

Sephiroth: “Yes! Him! Dante! He was hitting on Alucard right in front of me!”

Rufus: “Look, don’t bother my tenants. I need that money!”

Sephiroth: “You need that money like Rude needs a haircut!”

Rufus: “Rude better not need a haircut! ‘Cause I’m not paying for it!”

Sephiroth: “Rufus, are you so stupid that you can’t understand a simple analogy? Rude is *bald*.”

Rufus: “Yeah…”

Sephiroth: “Therefore he doesn’t need a haircut!”

Rufus: “Oh! I knew that!” *pause* “But I need that money.”

Sephiroth: “And he’s a stripper! A male stripper!”

Lark: “He is?” *thoughtfully* “You know, that makes a lot of sense actually…”

Sephiroth: “Plus he has silver hair! And you know I don’t like people with silver hair!”

Lark: “You like Alucard!”

Sephiroth: “That’s not the point!” *annoyed sigh* “Doesn’t anyone care about my problems?!”

Lark: “That male strip club must be new, because I don’t remember there being one around here before.”

Sephiroth: “ARGH!” *storms out*

Rufus: “What’s his problem? You’d think he’d like the idea of a male strip club!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, over at the center, cloud sits in the room with rudy, squall and serge. Yuri and koudelka are there as well.)

Koudelka: “Okay, boys. Meet Cloud, our newest member. Cloud’s from Final Fantasy VII.”

Squall: “Whatever… I already know him.”

Yuri: “Okay, Squall. Then why don’t you tell us something about Cloud then?”

Squall: *rolls eyes* “This is stupid. I don’t need to be here. I hate Rinoa for this.”

Koudelka: “Okay, Squall, if you know so much, why don’t *you* lead the group?”

Squall: “I don’t wanna be the leader!”

Koudelka: “That’s what I thought. Let’s get on with the session then.”

Yuri: “Serge? How are you feeling today?”

Serge: “……”

Yuri: *looks at koudelka*

Koudelka: “His mind is in such a tangle, it’s no wonder he doesn’t speak.”

Yuri: “Rudy? How about you?”

Rudy: “………h…e…e…clowns…”

Yuri: “…Okay…”

Koudelka: “It’s the all circus music channel in his brain.”

Yuri: “And Cloud?”

Cloud: *falls off chair*

Yuri: “Dammit!” *gets up and heaves cloud back onto the chair* “I hate taking care of these grown men like they’re babies!”

Koudelka: “Yuri! Not in front of the patients!”

Yuri: “So what?! They’re brain dead anyway!”

Squall: “Whatever…I’m not.”

Koudelka: “Look, why don’t we leave them alone for awhile? Maybe they’ll relate to one another better if they’re alone.”

Yuri: “Fine!”

(he storms out, and koudelka follows, closing the door behind her. Then cloud falls off the chair again, rudy starts humming circus music softly, and serge sits there motionless. Squall puts a hand to his head)

Squall: “This sucks.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 

(meanwhile, outside the ramble room a few hours later, sephiroth is talking to tseng)

Tseng: “There’s a male strip club around here?”

Sephiroth: “Argh! You’re not listening to me either!”

Tseng: “I’m listening! I’m listening! Look, Sephiroth…do you want the truth?”

Sephiroth: “Of course!”

Tseng: “Maybe you and Alucard are better off as friends.”

Sephiroth: “No! That’s ridiculous! He can’t want to leave me for someone else! If anyone should be leaving for someone else it’s me!”

Tseng: *raises eyebrow* “Oh *really*?”

Sephiroth: “Shut up!”

(and he storms inside, slamming the door behind him. Tseng sighs and sits down on the porch swing. Then zidane, reno, irvine and rude come on over)

Reno: “Hey, dude. Sup?”

Tseng: “Hey, not much. But I did find out something kind of interesting today.”

Irvine: “They lowered the drinking age?!”

Tseng: “…No. There’s a male strip club in town.”

Reno: “There is?”

Irvine: “Dude! I would totally work at one of those!”

Reno: “Dude! There are probably more men than chicks at those places!”

Irvine: “So what? It would be chicks who were horny for sure!”

Tseng: “Whoa! I just said it was in town! I didn’t say it was hiring!”

Zidane: “Are you gonna go? Can you sneak me in?”

Tseng: “I’m not gonna go!”

Rude: “Hmm. I wonder if they *are* hiring…”

Reno: “Dude!?!”

Irvine: “Right on!”

Reno: “You’re only 17, Irvine! You can’t work at a strip club!”

Irvine: “Big deal! It’s not my fault we live in the land of no aging! Plus I gotta fake ID for Christmas!”

Reno: “I didn’t give that to you so you could work at a male strip club!”

Irvine: “Whatever, man! No trying to score with all the extra chicks I pick up!”

(irvine goes inside, and reno follows. Rude goes to follow, but stops in front of tseng for a moment)

Rude: “…If you go, get me an application.”

(he then follows the others inside)

Tseng: *shrug* “I guess I’ll go. …To help Rude, of course.”

Zidane: “Right.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(and so a bit later that day rufus walks into the ramble room with a clipboard. Algus is there, having his feet rubbed by zidane)

Zidane: “I am regretting this gift already.”

Algus: “Silence, you. I didn’t say you could talk.”

Rufus: “Hey, Algus! Do you wanna take a walk with me?”

Algus: “Now that my feet feel nice and rested, why not! Where are we going?”

Rufus: “I’m going to inspect the condos and make sure everything’s in order. I need to make sure those condos are worth 5,000 a month–“

Zidane: “Oh, that’s actually nice…”

Rufus: “–And I don’t have to jack up the price.”

Zidane: “…Never mind.”

Algus: “Certainly, my friend! I’d be glad to accompany you! Zidane! Put my shoes back on!”

Zidane: *sigh*

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(and so algus puts his shoes on and he and rufus go across the street to the condos. They go to jack and cecilia’s and knock on the door)

Jack’s voice: “Who’s there?”

Rufus: “It’s your landlord! I need to do an inspection!”

(the door opens)

Jack: “Oh, hey Mr. Shinra. I didn’t know you were coming.”

Rufus: “Surprise! This is my friend Algus. We’re just going to take a look around.”

(so rufus and algus start to walk through the place. Jack follows them. Rufus marks things down on the clipboard from time to time. Suddenly a small blue mouse comes out of one of the rooms and into the hallway. Rufus and algus both yelp and step back)

Algus: “My goodness! It’s a rodent!”

Rufus: “I’m not responsible for rodent infestations!”

Mouse: “Jack…who the hell are these idiots?”

Jack: “This our landlord and his friend.”

Mouse: “Well I’m not a rodent infestation! I’m a wind mouse!”

Rufus: *sighs and marks something on the clipboard* “I guess pets are okay, but you should keep it in a cage.”

Mouse: “I’m not a pet! And nobody’s putting me in a cage!”

Jack: “Hanpan – I’ll handle this. Go take your bath.”

(the mouse, hanpan, goes into the bathroom with a grumble and slams the door)

Jack: “Look, Hanpan isn’t a pet. He’s like my #2.”

Hanpan’s voice: “You’re *my* #2.”

Algus: “Feisty little thing, isn’t he.”

Jack: “You betcha.”

Rufus: *sigh* “Fine. I guess he doesn’t shed or poop all over the floor or anything. Do you have other animals running around?”

Jack: “No. Just the one.”

Rufus: “Well, everything seems to be okay here. I’ll see you and your rent on the first of the month!”

(and with that he and algus leave. They then head next door)

Algus: “I always like to see how peasants live. It’s like being on safari.”

(they knock on solid snake’s door. Nothing happens)

Algus: “Hmm. Perhaps no one is at home?”

Rufus: “I think this is the weirdo that talks to himself.” *bangs on the door again* “It’s your landlord! Open up or I’ll throw you out!”

(the door creaks open a tiny little bit. Rufus opens the door. There’s no one there, and the room is dark. Frowning, rufus turns on the lights. Solid snake is in plain view, hiding under a table in front of them)

Snake: “Otakon! They see me! I need back-up! Come in, Otakon! Otakon!!”

Algus: “…What is he talking to?”

Rufus: “I have no idea. Hey, Solid Snake! I’m here to look around, not kill you.”

Snake: “……”

Rufus: “Hello?!”

Snake: “……”

Algus: “I suppose we should just have a look around anyway.”

(and they do. And the whole time they’re there snake doesn’t move or say another word. The whole place is nothing but cardboard boxes – empty cardboard boxes. Rufus does what he needs to do and then leaves, closing the door behind him)

Algus: “What an odd fellow.”

Rufus: “You think he had all those cardboard boxes as furniture because his rent is so high?”

Algus: “Certainly not!”

Rufus: *laughs* “Not like it matters!”

(they both laugh and knock on dante’s door. Lloyd opens it)

Rufus: “Hey there! It’s me, your landlord. I just wanna take a look around.”

Lloyd: “Yeah, okay.”

(he steps aside. Rufus and algus come in and start to look around. The whole place looks like a lounge. Everything’s done in reds, blacks and whites and there’s lots of fabric. Lloyd goes into the kitchen and goes to the toaster, which he is using…)

Algus: *looking around* “This is some…interesting décor. Is this *your* doing?”

Lloyd: “No. It’s Dante’s. He thinks he’s so cool.”

Dante: *entering* “I *am* cool.” *sees rufus and algus* “Hey there!”

Algus: “Greetings.”

Lloyd: “You’re a loser, Dante!”

Dante: “Shut up, Lloyd.”

Lloyd: “My name is Vergil, you dumb sh*t!”

Dante: “Can it, Lloyd!”

Algus: “I’m sorry, but…why do you call him Lloyd if he says his name is Vergil?”

Dante: “Because his middle name is Lloyd, and I hate him.”

Lloyd: “And I hate you!” *the toaster pops up his toast* “Finally!” *looks at toast and finds it’s undercooked* “Damn toaster!!! You’ve failed me for the last time!!”

(and with that lloyd picks up the toaster and slams it down onto the floor. It shatters into several pieces. Rufus and algus looked shocked, and dante looks pissed)

Dante: “You dumbass! Stop breaking my sh*t! Now I’m going to have to work overtime to buy a new one!”

Lloyd: “What’s the difference?! You love stripping, you fairy!”

Dante: “You’re just jealous they wouldn’t hire you! Your dancing is clunky!”

Lloyd: “You’re an asshole!”

(lloyd storms out. Rufus and algus don’t move. Dante looks annoyed but then smiles at them.)

Dante: “Don’t mind him. Lloyd just likes to cause drama.”

Lloyd’s voice: *from upstairs* “My name is VERGIL, you ass!”

Rufus: “Uh, we’ll be going now.”

Algus: “Yes.”

Rufus: “And don’t chip that floor or I’m charging you extra!”

(and with that algus and rufus leave. Once outside they look at one another)

Rufus: “As long as they can pay…”

Algus: “Precisely what I was thinking.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, back at the center, yuri and koudelka stand behind the glass watching the group. Squall sits slumped in his chair, arms crossed across his chest. Serge sits up straight, staring straight ahead as usual, cloud is laying on the floor staring up at the ceiling and giggling and rudy is intermittently humming more circus music.)

Yuri: “I don’t think they’re making any progress.”

Koudelka: “Is Squall asleep?”

Yuri: “Probably.”

Koudelka: *sigh* “Well maybe it’ll take a few days. If we keep putting them together like this by themselves, maybe we’ll be able to see a little improvement by the weekend.”

Yuri: “Maybe we should tie Cloud to the chair.”

Koudelka: “Yeah. Get right on that.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 

(skip to the next day. lark is in the TV room just killing some time and watching some TV when tseng comes in.)

Tseng: “Hey, Lark.”

Lark: “Hey, what’s up?”

Tseng: “You heard about that male strip club yet?”

Lark: “You bet I have!” *turns around to look at him* “You wanna go this weekend?”

Tseng: “Yeah… I was thinking about maybe stopping by…you know…if I have nothing else to do…”

Lark: “Does Reeve wanna come?”

Tseng: “No! Er…I mean, nah… That’s not really his thing.”

Lark: *frowns* “Reeve doesn’t know about it, does he.”

Tseng: “Oh no.”

Lark: “Why not?”

(tseng comes over to join her on the couch)

Tseng: “Well, remember how much money I was making in tips at Rufus’ restaurant?”

Lark: “Yeah…”

Tseng: “Yeah. And that was with my clothes *on*.”

Lark: “Tseng! You can’t be a stripper!”

Tseng: “Why not? Think of all that money I could be making!”

Lark: “I don’t know about this…”

Tseng: “Rude wants to do it!”

Lark: “But that’s Rude! The way he’s headed he’ll be whoring himself out on the corner by the end of the month!” *sigh* “Well, there’s no point in stopping you. You are hot. I’d definitely be at the stage with the dollar bills.”

Tseng: “See! So you wanna check it out with me tomorrow night?”

Lark: “Sure.”

(then sephiroth comes in, looking surly as usual)

Sephiroth: “What are you ladies talking about?”

Tseng: “Ha ha. We were talking about the new male strip club that just opened up.”

Lark: “I wonder what it’s called…”

Sephiroth: “The male strip club!?!? You’re not going there – are you?!”

Tseng: “…Maybe.”

Sephiroth: “You can’t go there! That’s where Alucard’s stalker works!”

Lark: “Now he’s Alucard’s stalker?”

Sephiroth: “Yes! That guy is probably crawling with more diseases than Scarlet! I wouldn’t go within 100 feet of him, never mind stick dollar bills in his G-string!”

Tseng: “You’re making too much of this, Sephiroth. Alucard’s still with *you*, isn’t he?”

Sephiroth: “Not that you think we should be, Mr. Why Don’t You Just Be Friends!”

Lark: “Sephiroth, you can’t stop us from going.”

Sephiroth: “Fine! Get herpes! See if I care!”

(and with that he stalks off. Lark turns to tseng)

Lark: “You told him he and Alucard should just be friends?”

Tseng: “Yes. Why, do you think otherwise?”

(lark doesn’t say anything…)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, in the ramble room, irvine is laying on the couch while zidane sits at the table, polishing some cuff links for algus.)

Zidane: *mutters* “Stupid Algus with his stupid stuff he has to have stupid shiny all the stupid time.”

Irvine: “…Ya know, Z…I’ve been thinkin’…why isn’t this place like our normal world? I’m 22 there! Set to turn 23 this year!”

Zidane: “And I’m 21! Here I’m still a kid!”

Irvine: “I wonder why that is…”

Zidane: “That sounds like something that requires…you know, effort.”

Irvine: “That’s effort I’m willin’ to put in if it means I can drink at my own bar in this dimension! Where do you think I could find out information like that?”

Zidane: *thinks* “I don’t know. Does this dimension have a library?”

Irvine: *thoughtfully* “Library, huh… I’m not really familiar with those…”

(then zell runs in)

Zell: “Hey, guys! What’s up?”

Irvine: “Zell! You’re just the guy I wanna see! You know a lot about libraries, right?”

Zell: “Sure! It’s the best place to get free books! They even have some comic books in there!”

Irvine: “You know if there’s a library around here?”

Zell: “Yeah! I know where one is!”

Irvine: *smiles* “Come on, Zidane.” *puts an arm around zell as the three walk out the door* “Tell me, Zell. Wouldn’t you like to be able to legally drink…?”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 

(meanwhile, sephiroth knocks on the door to alucard’s, and alucard answers as usual.)

Alucard: “Oh. I wasn’t expecting you.”

Sephiroth: “Surprise.” *stomps inside*

Alucard: “…Something wrong?” *shuts door*

Sephiroth: “My friends are traitors!”

Alucard: “Traitors?”

Sephiroth: “They’re going to the strip club where the man-slut works!”

Alucard: “…They are?”

Sephiroth: “Yes! Tseng and Lark are! And I told them about him and everything. No one listens to me!”

(he stomps off into the kitchen. Alucard stands there a moment more, looking thoughtful…)

Dracula’s voice: “Hello, young lady! Would you like some rolls?”

Sephiroth’s voice: “Those are ears!”

Dracula’s voice: “What?! You’ll have to speak up! I can’t hear you!”

Sephiroth’s voice: “Those are *your* ears!”

(and, with a sigh, alucard plods into the kitchen as well.)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(later that night, tseng is lying on the bed in his and reeve’s room flipping through a magazine. Lily lies nearby asleep. Reeve isn’t in the room. Then tseng’s cell phone starts to ring quietly…he quickly answers it and speaks softly)

Tseng: “Hello?”

???????: “Uh, hello, Tseng. This is Alucard.”

Tseng: “Oh.” *blink blink* “Hi.”

Alucard’s voice: “I hope you don’t mind that I called… I got your number from Sephiroth’s cell phone.”

Tseng: “Oh no, it’s fine. Is something wrong?”

Alucard’s voice: “No, nothing’s wrong. …I was talking with Sephiroth today and he mentioned that you and Lark are going to the new strip club tomorrow night…”

Tseng: “…You wanna come?”

Alucard’s voice: *clears throat* “Well, um, I thought it might be nice to hang out with some other people…”

Tseng: “You don’t have to lie to me. Is this about that guy Dante?”

Alucard’s voice: “…Sephiroth hates him already. I just wanted to see him again.”

Tseng: “I understand.” *pause* “I don’t know if you know this, but I kind of sort of loosely dated Sephiroth once. A long time ago.”

Alucard’s voice: “You dated him?”

Tseng: “Well, it wasn’t so much dating as it was a lot of…uh…anyway, I know how he can be. Can I ask you a question?”

Alucard’s voice: “Certainly.”

Tseng: “Do you really want to be with him?”

Alucard’s voice: “…I do.”

Tseng: “Really?”

Alucard’s voice: “Yes.”

Tseng: “Okay. Well, we’re planning on leaving around 10 tomorrow night.”

Alucard’s voice: “All right. Thank you.”

Tseng: “Sure. I’ll see you then.”

Alucard’s voice: “Good-bye.”

(he hangs up, and he notices lily is awake and staring at him. He gets up and picks her up.)

Reeve’s voice: *from the next room* “Sweetie?”

Tseng: “Yeah?”

Reeve’s voice: “Can you bring me a new pack of pencils?”

Tseng: “Yeah.”

(he grabs a new package of pencils from a bag by the closet and goes into the next room. There reeve sits at a big table with a bunch of drawings of buildings in front of him. Tseng goes over and holds out the package)

Tseng: “Here you go.”

Reeve: *finishing up a line* “Thanks…” *he turns and takes the package* “Oh! She woke up?”

Tseng: “Yeah. I’m gonna give her a bottle.” *looks at the drawing* “That looks really good.”

Reeve: “Thanks! This one should be going to the builder soon. You know how Rufus is.”

Tseng: “I don’t know how you do it, Reeve.”

Reeve: “I’d be happy to explain what I do!”

Tseng: “I know… But you know I never understand it.”

(he gives reeve a little smile and then takes lily back into the next room. He places her in a little swing and then goes to prepare a bottle for her. When that’s done he comes back over, picks her up, and gives her the bottle)

Tseng: *softly* “When you’re older, Lily, it’ll be easy to see which father you should look up to…”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the next morning, over at the belmonts, richter is walking into the living room with a tray that has two mugs of tea on it…)

Richter: “Well, Tifa! You’ve gone a whole week without Cloud! It wasn’t too hard, was it?”

Tifa: “……”

Richter: *puts tray down* “Is something wrong?”

Tifa: “…You know all those ‘doctor’ visits I had this week?”

Richter: “…Yes.”

Tifa: “…I went to see Cloud.”

Richter: “Tifa!”

Tifa: “I had to! I had to make sure he was okay!”

Richter: *sits with a sigh* “Well is he okay?”

Tifa: “Yeah…he hasn’t made any progress, though.”

Richter: “Well, these things take time! Therapy doesn’t work overnight! If it did Franswa would be killing vampires by the thousands by now.”

Tifa: “What?”

Richter: “Nothing.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(the next night, around ten, tseng, lark and bryatt are waiting near the ramble room doors for alucard)

Bryatt: “So a male strip club, eh? This should be interesting.”

Lark: “I wonder who owns it.”

Bryatt: “I wonder if we’ll see more guys or girls there.”

Tseng: “Here he comes. Let’s go.”

(they all go outside to meet alucard, who, for once, is not wearing his usual totally-outdated-cause-he’s-been-wearing-it-since-the-1700s-outfit. He’s wearing modern designer clothing and looks pretty nice)

Lark: “Hi, Alucard! You look nice!”

Alucard: “Thanks. Are we ready to go?”

Tseng: “Yup! Let’s get going!”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 

(and so they get to the club, which is called ‘the hot package’. There’s really loud music playing. They pay the cover charge and go inside. There’s some guy dancing on the stage, complete with pole and everything. They look around a little bit, and lark notices that solid snake is tending the bar)

Lark: “Holy crap!”

Bryatt: *looking at stage* “I know. I didn’t think there’d be a pole.”

Lark: “No, look! Solid Snake is the bartender!”

(they all look)

Bryatt: “Huh. Yeah, didn’t see that one comin’.”

(they all go over to the bar)

Lark: “Hey, Snake! I’m Lark, one of your new neighbors!”

Snake: “…How do you know where I live?”

Lark: “Uh, we’ll each have a beer.”

Snake: “Coming right up.”

(they all take seats at the bar, watching the stage. Alucard faces the stage too, watching, looking a bit nervous…)

Lark: “That guy looks familiar…”

Bryatt: “Why? Is it Sephiroth in disguise or something?” *he starts to laugh but alucard looks at him in horror and he stops* “…Okay. Not funny.”

Lark: “I’ve seen that guy somewhere before…”

Bryatt: “Now you’re just starting to sound like Tseng.”

Tseng: “Ha ha. Real funny, Bry.”

Lark: “OMG! I know who that is! That’s Maxi!”

Tseng: “Maxi?”

Lark: “Yeah! Maxi! From Soul Caliber!” *pause* “…Why am I not surprised?”

Snake: *plops down 4 beers* “20 bucks.”

Tseng: “Five dollars for a beer? If I didn’t know better I’d think Rufus was running the place!”

Alucard: “I’ve got it.”

(he pays the bill, and maxi leaves the stage. And who comes on next…? Well the song ’99 problems’ by jay-z fills the room and dante struts onto the stage. Alucard’s jaw drops. Everyone watches as dante comes out and does his whole strip dance to the whole song. He really is extremely good at it, and he gets a ton of tips from the guys and girls sitting next to the stage. When the song ends, he leaves the stage and lark, bryatt, and tseng all turn to look at each other. Alucard doesn’t move)

Bryatt: “…I never thought I would say this about anyone, but that boy was born to strip!”

Tseng: “Did you see all the money he made?”

Lark: “He’s coming over here!”

(sure enough, dante comes over and heads straight for alucard)

Dante: “Hey there… I thought it was you. Glad you came. Alucard, right? Or do you prefer Adrian?”

Alucard: “Uh…either is fine. You can call me whatever you want.”

Dante: “Oh. I will.” *grins* “So, Al…where’s your weirdo boyfriend?”

Alucard: “He…stayed home.”

Dante: “Good. You like my performance?”

Alucard: “…Yes. It was…it was really…something. Great song.”

Dante: “You liked it?”

Alucard: “Oh sure. I love Jay-Z. And the Black Album is a classic.”

Dante: “Huh. You know your rap music. I’m impressed. You really are full of surprises.”

(dante keeps grinning at him and alucard is just staring like he’s lost in dante’s spell. After another moment he snaps out of it.)

Alucard: “Oh! Dante, I’ve been rude. These are some more neighbors of yours, and friends of mine. This is Lark, Tseng and Bryatt. Everyone, this is our new neighbor, Dante Sparda.”

Lark: “Nice to meet you, Dante.”

Bryatt: “Hey there.”

Tseng: “Hi.”

Dante: “Glad you all came down.”

Lark: “Hey, Dante…if you don’t mind me asking…who owns the place?”

Dante: “Guy goes by the name of General Caraway.”

Lark: *blink blink* “…General Caraway?”

Dante: “Yup. He’s right over there in the V.I.P booth.”

(he points over to a booth in the corner where there’s a well dressed middle aged man surrounded by several gorgeous looking girls. And lark’s jaw drops, because in case you don’t know, general caraway is rinoa’s dad)

Lark: “Now *that* I didn’t see comin’.”

(then a new guy comes to the stage and alucard, bryatt and lark all turn their heads to look. Tseng takes dante by the arm and leads him away from the group a bit)

Tseng: “So, Dante…” *cough* “Thisplacehiring?” *cough*

Dante: *grins* “Not at the moment…” *looks tseng up and down* “But I’ll let you know if we have an opening.”

Bryatt: “Hey, Tseng! You’re married and you’re still trying to pick up the stripper?”

(tseng and dante come back over.)

Tseng: “Very funny, Bryatt.”

(tseng, lark and bryatt watch the stage. Dante goes over to alucard and starts whispering something in his ear. Alucard shakes his head no from time to time. Finally dante, looking a little disappointed, goes away.)

Alucard: *sigh*

Lark: “What was that about?”

Alucard: “He wanted me to go into the back room with him.”

Tseng: “Where they do the lap dances?”

Bryatt: *gives him a look*

Tseng: “What! You know that’s what they do back there!”

Alucard: “Yes. But I said no. I have a boyfriend, and that would just be inappropriate.” *he gets up* “Thanks for having me along. I should be going. Have a good night.”

(and no one says anything more as alucard walks out)

Lark: *sigh*

Bryatt: “…How is he going to get home?”

Tseng: “Huh?”

Bryatt: “You drove here. How is he going to get home?”

Tseng: “He’s a vampire. He’ll probably turn into a bat or something.”

Bryatt: “Oh right. That makes sense.”

Lark: “Hey – Snake! How about some more drinks over here?”

Snake: “…How do you know my code name?”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(alucard goes to the ramble room and knocks on the door to sephiroth’s room. seph answers in his pajamas, rubbing at his eyes a bit. he doesn’t notice who it is at first…)

Sephiroth: “Dammit, Vincent…” *sees alucard* “Oh. I wasn’t expecting you.”

Alucard: “Surprise.”

(and with that he grabs sephiroth by the shoulders and kisses him deeply. not really passionately, but more forcefully. he then breaks it off after a few seconds, leaving sephiroth looking a bit stunned.)

Alucard: “Can I come in?”

Sephiroth: “…Yeah.”

(and so alucard goes into the room and sephiroth follows, closing the door behind him.)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, not too long later, lark, tseng and bryatt return home from the strip club. they go into the ramble room to see zell, irvine and zidane standing there.)

Irvine: “We were at the library!”

Bryatt: *blink blink* “Was the library giving away free booze or something?”

Zell: “Me, Irvine and Zidane found a way for us to age!”

Tseng: “What?”

Irvine: “I was thinking how it would be so much better if we were all the ages we are in our real worlds, so I went to the library and found out we *can* age here! But Lark has to authorize it ’cause she’s the one who brought us here.”

Zidane: “Yeah, Lark! You just gotta kinda *ask* for it.”

Zell: “Yeah! So can you do it now?”

Lark: “Uh…what?”

Tseng: “You want to age? Will this affect all of us?”

Irvine: “Um…yeah, I guess so. But what’s the big deal?”

Tseng: “Big deal!?!? I had a hard enough time turning 30! I don’t want Lark to snap her fingers and turn me 35! I’ll be waaaaay too close to forty for my liking!”

Bryatt: “That’s only a little self-centered…”

Tseng: “Shut up, Bryatt.”

Zidane: “You gotta do it, Lark! I should be 21! Not 16!”

Irvine: “And me and Zell should be 22!”

Zell: “You gotta do it, Lark!”

Tseng: “Lark. Think about this. This isn’t fair to a lot of people.”

Lark: “Okay! Look. Everybody, relax. Irvine… Zell… Zidane… This is a big decision, okay? I can’t just snap my fingers and do it. I have to ask everyone first. Maybe we can have a vote or something. Sound fair?”

Irvine: *grins* “Sure! I betcha we can get the votes! C’mon guys!”

(he, zell and zidane scamper off.)

Tseng: “I can’t believe you’d even consider this, Lark.” *goes to leave*

Lark: “Tseng, wait!”

(but he’s gone.)

Lark: *sigh* “Great! Now he’s mad at me!”

Bryatt: “Don’t worry about it. God forbid something might threaten to damage his looks! What will he do with himself!”

Lark: “Huh?”

Bryatt: “Never mind, Lark. He’ll get over it. Have a good night.”

(and as bryatt walks away, all lark can do is sigh)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, back in sephiroth’s room, sephiroth and alucard’s clothes lay in neat piles on the floor. they lie side by side in bed, staring up at the ceiling.)

Sephiroth: “……..”

Alucard: “………”

Sephiroth: “……”

Alucard: “……”

Sephiroth: “…I think we should move in together.”

Alucard: *looks at him* “…Okay.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(meanwhile, the next day back at the center, koudelka and yuri stand behind the mirror watching the villains group. rufus isn’t there this time, but everyone else is.)

Nightmare: *hanging head* “Nightmare’s main problem is that Nightmare’s opponents don’t stay dead! There’s no end to the fighting!”

Nemesis: *nods understandingly* “STARS.”

(then there’s a knock at the door behind koudelka and yuri)

Koudelka: “Who is it?”

(squall comes in)

Yuri: “Squall! Why aren’t you in session with the others?”

Squall: “Because I’m not gay. Can I go home now?”

Koudelka: “What does being gay have anything to do with it?”

Squall: *sigh* “You better see this.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(back at the belmont estate, tifa and richter are relaxing and just watching some tv…)

Trevor’s voice: “Franswa! Help me hang this painting!”

Franswa’s voice: “No! I’m sick of helping you hang that! Stop taking it down!”

Simon’s voice: “Franswa! Don’t talk to your elders like that!”

Juste’s voice: “Franswa? Have you seen my issue of ‘Amateur Decorator’?”

Franswa’s voice: “Argh! Shut up! I’m trying to make some cookies!”

(then the phone rings. richter picks it up)

Richter: “Belmont residence, home of the legendary vampire hunters. Richter speaking. ….Yes, she is. Hold on.” *holds out phone* “It’s for you, darling. It’s Koudelka from the center.”

Tifa: “Oh!” *takes phone* “Hello?” *eyes widen* “Oh my gosh! We’ll be there right away!!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(and so not too long after, tifa and richter rush up to the reception desk at the same time jack and cecilia do. koudelka is at the desk, hanging up the phone)

Koudelka: “44 of them and not one picks up the phone!” *sees the others* “Oh. Glad you’re here.”

Jack: “Did I hear you right?! Are they really–“

Koudelka: “Why don’t you see for yourself?”

(she leads them down the hall behind the two way mirror in the room where cloud, rudy and serge are. serge is still sitting there as usual, but cloud and rudy are making out. cloud’s the one who looks way more into it.)

Cecilia: *gasp*

Tifa: “Oh, Cloud!”

Koudelka: “I told you.”

Jack: *frowns*

Richter: “So you want us to take him home because of this?”

Koudelka: “We’ve decided to go strictly outpatient for now. You can keep bringing them in a few times a week for sessions.”

(there’s a knock at the door and yuri sticks his head in)

Yuri: “Koudelka! Nightmare’s been ambushed again!”

Koudelka: “Dammit! I’m sick of this!”

(she and yuri rush out.)

Tifa: *sigh* “Oh, Richter… Do you think Cloud will ever get better?”

Richter: “I hope so, Tifa. …Especially for the sake of the boy with the blue hair. He doesn’t look too interested.”

Jack: *mutters* “He better not be.”

Cecilia: “What?”

Jack: “…Nothing.”

THE END…?

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