The cool breeze from an indoor air conditioner hit Cloud as soon as he opened the door of the place that he was hopefully going to be working at for a long time to come. If only for the sake of rent money until he found something more suited for him that is. And if this building and the people working here didn't seem to be spit up from the deepest bowels of Satan's putrefied stomach. Jobs were tolerable, but co-workers could be a pain in the butt, which was a factor that was bothering Cloud just the smallest bit, considering his most current experience with a certain colleague.
He wasn't what people would call overly social, but he was exactly a loner either. He had made friends in high school, but Zack was the only one he stayed in contact with nowadays. But one close friend that he could trust was better than about six or so acquaintances that barely knew him for the person he really was, at least according to Cloud's perspective anyway. And, all things considered as of late, he had made a good choice, Zack's almost constant state of self-induced sugar high aside.
After making sure the glass door had shut behind him, Cloud glanced briefly at his watch.
The magazine hadn't specified a time for when interviews would no longer be taken and Cloud was hoping that he wasn't too late to at least have a shot at this job. It was truly a miracle that he even found out about the opening in the first place—a stroke of luck on his part. And he wasn't about to let the opportunity slip through his fingers if he could help it. Though, now that he was thinking about, he was still a little on the edge about what he would be doing. He shoved it down, however, in favor of walking up to the front desk where a blonde woman was busy typing away at her terminal.
Cloud cleared his throat. "Excuse me…um?"
The woman didn't have a nametag pinned to her dark blue jacket at the moment, but Cloud had the vague recognition that he had met her somewhere before. The city he lived in was pretty big so casually bumping into her on the street wasn't that likely. And they had to have at least talked once for him to remember her past the initial meeting. It was nagging at him inside his head like any other thing that he would try to remember, but kept eluding him the more he pondered about it. The human mind may contain much potential, but there are times when it's more of a nuisance than something helpful.
"Hmm?" She turned toward Cloud. "Oh!"
She suddenly started scrambling around her desk area, shifting through documents and folders whilst talking to herself quietly. Cloud's first impression of her was that she was probably absentminded to an extent, which was not a good quality for someone who was operating the front desk. But it wasn't like he really had a say in who was chosen to work here so he tossed it aside. After a few seconds, she made a triumphant noise and fastened her nametag to her jacket, which read 'Elena'. Cloud had the feeling he knew that name, but he couldn't quite place where he had heard it prior to today. And frankly, trying to think of it was driving him crazier and crazier by the second.
"I apologize for that. Anyway, how may I help you?" Elena asked kindly.
"I'm…here for the interview."
She clasped her hands together excitedly. "Oh, good! Okay, just fill this out and give it back to me when you've finished."
Elena grabbed a piece of paper from on top of a medium sized pile and placed it in front of Cloud, laying a pen next to the sheet that had to be the job application. For a brief moment, Cloud felt like he was back in high school filling out some useless form that had already been turned in the previous year, but was required to be completed once again anyway. He always got that feeling when it came to job applications and whatnot.
Elena cocked her head to the side in thought. "Hey, wait a minute. Aren't you Cloud?"
Cloud nodded. "How did you-"
"Ooh, I knew I'd recognized you! It's been awhile, hasn't it?"
Cloud blinked in confusion. He had yet to figure out where they had meet before and he was feeling a little awkward with how formal she was being with him.
"Don't you remember? I used to go out with Zack."
After hearing that, it all immediately came back to him. He should have known that was how they were connected, but keeping up with all of the people Zack had been with was just plain difficult since most of them didn't last long enough to have an impact. And, really, it wasn't like Zack remembered them all either so there was no point in Cloud doing so.
"Oh, yeah. I remember now."
She smiled. "Anyway, you'd better hurry up and fill that out. Mr. ShinRa will be done with this applicant in a minute or two and you need to be ready to go in when called."
"Ok. You mind if I just do it here?"
"Of course not," Elena replied, turning back to her computer to carry on with her typing.
It was otherwise quiet as Cloud wrote in the blanks as fast and as neat as he could with a pen. The majority of the requested information was of a general variety, like how old he was and if he was attending school or not. He barely heard the slide of elevator doors opening then shutting, nor did he bother to look up to see who it was that came out. The sharp sound of a telephone ringing occurred next, which was quickly answered by Elena, who cradled the plastic object between her cheek and her shoulder while still continuing to press down on the keyboard keys.
"Yes, sir? …Yes, he'll be right there, sir."
Elena hung up the phone and looked up at Cloud, who had luckily just finished with his application.
Taking the paper from him, she pointed to the elevator. "Take that up to the 10th floor and take the first door on the right."
Following Elena's directions, Cloud was standing in front of the appointed door in no time. Taking a deep breath in preparation for his interview, the blonde knocked on the door two times.
"Come in," a male voice said.
Upon opening the door and shutting it behind him, Cloud was greeted with the sight of two males sitting at a rather large desk. One had slicked back dark hair who was seated at the at right side with a laptop situated in front of him, the nametag attached to his black suit reading 'Tseng'.
The other, who was sitting behind the desk, had blonde hair and was wearing an expensive looking white suit. The mahogany desk was surprisingly tidy, other than a few papers scattered about the surface. At the uppermost middle section of the desk was a nameplate that read 'President Rufus ShinRa', meaning that this was the main office of the proprietor of 'Vanity Mirror'. The blonde man, who Cloud assumed was Rufus, motioned for Cloud to sit in the chair opposite of him.
"All right, what's your name?"
Tseng started typing quietly on the laptop afterwards, obviously having been assigned to copy down everything that was said during the interview for the purpose of the readers knowing more about the new person being welcomed into the magazine.
"And you should already know who I am so let's get to it. Now, some of these questions will get kind of personal so I hope you're ready to answer them," Rufus said in warning.
Cloud nodded in response.
"All right. Do you have any prior modeling experience?"
Hesitantly, Cloud answered, "No."
Rufus looked at Cloud for a moment, silent for a few seconds. "I see."
Cloud couldn't tell for the life of him what the blonde president had meant by those words. Whether it was disappointment or acceptance was definitely up for debate and it didn't help that the answer was kept pretty much monotone. The subtle sounds of Tseng finishing his typing for the moment came when Rufus continued his questions.
"How flexible are you?"
Cloud grimaced just the slightest bit at the question, the change in expression barely noticeable for only a moment. Well, Rufus did say the questions would get personal. He just wasn't certain about what being lithe had to do with anything. After a few seconds of thought, it dawned on him and he blushed hard, mentally cursing his fleeting naivety. Cloud wasn't expecting that he would have to do any kind of poses that involved decent stretching ability. But, then again, there were probably going to be a lot of things about this job that would be new and unanticipated to him.
Rufus stared at him, not even fazed by his query. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm good," Cloud responded, ridding himself of his embarrassment.
"Anyway, your answer?"
"I guess I'm more flexible than a regular person."
Rufus paused. "Hmm. I suppose that will suffice as an answer for now. We'll just have to try out a few things to see how limber you really are."
If Cloud wasn't mistaken, the statement the other blonde made could have been misconstrued as sounding like he was speaking in a more sexual sense. Cloud didn't think himself to be a pervert, but after hanging around Zack—who could be really dirty minded if the right mood struck him—for years, certain traits rubbed off on him as a result. And, to his chagrin, the occassional moments of perverted thought was one of them.
"Now, on to the next question-"
"Excuse me, but may I ask a question?"
Rufus chuckled to himself quietly. "I thought I was the one doing the asking here. But please, do go ahead."
"Just how naked am I going to have to be exactly?"
He figured that he might as well get that little issue out of the way now instead of finding out later. The magazine wasn't completely filled with mostly naked men—unlike the black-haired man Zack pointed out—but the positions of all of them were sexually provocative to some degree regardless of the amount of clothing they were wearing.
Rufus laughed softly again. "Well, newcomers starting off won't have to do those kinds of photo shoots until later."
Cloud inwardly sighed in relief. He was somewhat happy that he wouldn't have to show too much skin just yet. He would have rather worked up to doing that sort of thing anyway.
"So, you're actually aware of what you'll have to do?" Rufus asked in a slightly amazed tone.
Cloud frowned. "At least where the photos are concerned. Why do you ask?"
Rufus thought silently for a moment, completely ignoring Cloud and Tseng's presence in the room. After a few moments of peace, the blonde president spoke up, "You're the sixth person I've interviewed today, Cloud. And the majority of those few didn't even know about this magazine's trade. When I mentioned it to them, they all practically ran out the door. I was just a little pleasantly surprised is all."
Cloud nodded in understanding. He really couldn't blame them for walking out like they did. Anybody with a sense of privacy and moral fiber would turn this job down in a second. As the thought crossed his mind, he grimaced slightly then made an annoyed expression—as if he were looking at himself accusingly in a mirror. Though he did in fact possess both qualities, since he was applying for this very profession himself, he really had no room to talk about lacking good principles anymore. He would have to smack himself in the forehead later for not thinking of this sooner.
But now that he was this far into it, there really was no going back. His pride wouldn't allow him to quit now before he even gave it a chance. It was just a job; he could live with it and move on with no damage done in the end.
Rufus proceeded after a moment, "Though, I would have already hired you from the moment you walked in the door if I could have done it. I couldn't have asked for a better looking person for our new model."
Cloud was a bit stunned by the blonde's statement to say the least, which Rufus most likely picked up on by his change in facial expression.
"You look as if you don't believe me."
"No, that's not it. I've just never had a job where my looks mattered."
"Well, I'd say you do now."
Cloud's eyes widened. "You mean…?"
"Yes. You are now our newest 'Vanity Mirror' model as of right now."
"But we haven't even finished. …Have we?"
"I have a good feeling about you and I don't think we're going to get a better candidate in any case. But let's finish this interview anyway for our readers, yes?"
"Oh, hey, Spiky!" Zack greeted when he entered their apartment, seeing the blonde sitting on the couch. "I just went out to…uh. Cloud? Is…there something wrong?"
Cloud didn't answer him, choosing to persist with staring down at the floor. Zack moved behind the couch, leaning over the back slightly to look at his friend.
"How did the interview go? Did you get the job?"
"Yeah, I got the job."
"That's great news!"
Cloud made a small noise of acknowledgement.
Zack tilted his head to the side, much like a confused puppy would. "Then…what's the problem?"
Cloud contemplated for a bit. "Do you… Do you know where I can get my ears pierced?"
Zack stared at his friend in silence for a few moments. "…Do what now?"
Cloud walked out of the 'Vanity Mirror' building and sighed in relief. The rest of the interview had been rather odd, but he managed through it pretty well. And Elena seemed very excited when he told her how it went. Apparently, today had been quite stressful on her and the other two—being the only people in the workplace since everyone else had the day off. He was about to start walking back to his apartment when Rufus stepped outside.
"I apologize for troubling you further today, but I almost forgot to tell you something," Rufus explained.
"What is it?"
"I want you to get your ears pierced."
Cloud blinked in confusion. "What?"
"You heard me right. I'd like you to have that done by Monday since you'll officially be on the job then."
"It's kind of a shame, though. You have such nice ears…"
Cloud would have flinched at that if he didn't try to stay cool and composed most of the time. But it was just a little disturbing that his new employer was giving him a compliment about his looks, however small the remark was. Actually, it seemed like the blonde president was flittering with him for most of the interview, but Cloud had chosen to ignore it at the time.
"Anyway, I want you to come back tomorrow to meet the people you will be working with. Sometime after noon would be good," Rufus said before walking back into the building behind him.
After Cloud finished explaining the situation, they both lapsed into silence. Cloud, quite admittedly, was a little apprehensive about getting a small hole in punched into his earlobes for the purpose of an accessory. He wasn't bothered by if it would hurt or if it would look too girly on him. Honestly, he didn't really know what exactly was troubling him so much. It wasn't like piercing his ears was going to drastically alter his life—at least, not more than this modeling job probably would.
"Weird…" Zack said, breaking the temporary peace.
"I know. I was there."
"Anyway, I can pierce your ears for you if don't wanna get it done in public."
The blonde raised an eyebrow, a normal reaction for him if he heard something that sounded a little strange or confusing.
"What, I did mine by myself," Zack said, pointing to his right ear, which had no earring in at the moment, but the hole was clearly visible, the same applying to his left ear.
"So, you want me to do it or not?"
"Sure. …Oh yeah, I almost forgot," Cloud said to himself before promptly smacking himself hard in the forehead.
A short silence followed the action, as well as a bewildered—and slightly amused—look from Zack.
"Oook… If you say so."
Edit 5/12/2014; Removed author notes.