My first attempt at a full on humor fic. Be gentle.

The Unsolicited Wisdom of Cid Highwind

Tifa stormed away from the Wonder Catcher game in a fury that alarmed the woman assigned to the change desk and attracted the attention of every male in the room. Her eyes blazing with contained passion, her loosely ponytailed hair flowing and bouncing against her back in rhythm with her footsteps and other, more prominent body parts, the male patrons and employees of the Gold Saucer found her a sight to behold and savor. All of them except, in the traditional function of irony, the one she wanted to be watching.

And one other male, who was currently much more involved in a dispute with a cigarette vending machine.

"Piece of shit ate my gil!" Cid Highwind protested, beating his fists against the lit plastic façade of the mechanical thief to let it know it would not go unpunished for its transgression. He gaze wandered over to a large spear propped in the corner. He had fought security long and hard to get clearance to bring the thing inside the amusement park; he might as well reap the benefit of that effort. A couple stabs to the coin slot would teach that vending machine who was the boss of who.

Before he could fetch his weapon, Tifa and her mood passed by and a slightly more subtle strategy came to him.

"Hey, Lockheart. You can punch really hard."

Brown eyes glared at him.

Cid hastened to specify *what* she should be hitting hard. "This @#%$ing machine ate my gil. Think you could give it a couple of whacks for me? Shake a pack loose?"

Tifa considered.

Here, Aeris. I got a stuffed chocobo for you!


It's so cute, Cloud!


That's nothing. Let me get you a moogle, a tonberry, a cactuar, a …


"That's it, girl. Put some shoulder into it!" Cid encouraged. He could see the packs swaying in their plastic slots. A few more punches…

"Amateurs! You want security all over your asses?" The voice came out of nowhere, but its source was easily identifiable.

"@#%$ off, Kisaragi. We're just trying to claim what's rightfully mine. And loose that stealth bullshit. I know where you are."

"Yeah, right," Yuffie said from a bit to Cid's left.

Cid quit looking to the right and turned to the young ninja. "You got a better idea?"

Yuffie huffed and approached the machine. Tifa had quit pounding it but looked more than ready to resume at the tiniest provocation. Yuffie tiptoed around her.

"It's all in the equipment," she lectured as she produced a thin sliver of metal from her pocket. "And in knowing how to use it." She inserted the pick into a keyhole below the coin slot and, after a few expert twists, the door clicked open. "I am the master!" she pronounced.

"And all I thought you could steal was materia." Cid pushed her aside on his way to collect the loot. He took the pack he had legitimately paid for and several more bonus packs. "@#%$ing Shinra just gets to the revenue anyway," he muttered as justification.

Yuffie made gagging noises behind him. "Just don't smoke those things when I'm around."

Tifa continued to stare.

Once he had collected enough to feed his addiction and hinder his breathing for the next two weeks, Cid closed the vending machine with a triumphant snicker. The dents Tifa had put into the infernal device were just icing on the cake. He went to thank her but was stopped short by the expression on her face. "Uh, you okay there, Tifa?"

Tifa continued to stare.

"All right then. Carry on." Cid would have left, but Yuffie blocked him. Then she pointed in the direction of the Wonder Catcher and the woman in the pink dress and red jacket and the man in the Soldier uniform.

"Shit," said Cid. This was one of those situations that called for "people skills". Countless employee evaluations by Shinra had indicated a need for Employee # 21-12258 Highwind, Cid to develop "people skills". He could proudly say he had retired from the Shinra payroll without developing nary a one.

"Where's Valentine?" Cid asked, searching for an out, any out. "He knows all about that doomed romantic crap."

"Yeah, I'll get Vincent!" Her enthusiasm brought a curious lift of an eyebrow by Cid and she quickly amended, "No, it should just be us. We want to help Tifa, not send her spiraling into depression."

"No way. I'm not getting stuck playing shoulder to cry on."

Veteran pilot and ninja girl bickered on, each one sure they knew the best way to help the ex-barmaid. Tifa, for her part, ignored them….and continued to stare.

Eventually, owing mostly to the fact that Cid's spear was out of reach while Yuffie's weapon was grasped firmly in hand, a compromise was reached.

Yuffie shoved Cid forward.

He coughed, scuffed the floor with his boot, adjusted his goggles, then his scarf…

Yuffie shoved him again.

"I'm getting' to it. @#%$ing little twit." He remembered those horrible daytime talk shows Shera always watched. Stupid shit about how badly men mistreat women, using them only for sex, cooking and housecleaning and never letting them know how much they appreciated them. He hadn't a clue why she found them so fascinating.

But a phrase or two had seeped in by virtue of endless repetition. In the calm voice he usually reserved for coaxing the tricky engines of the Tiny Bronco to "work, goddamn you, work" he asked with faux sincerity, "Do you want to talk about it?"

Two thoughts crossed his mind as Tifa stopped staring at the vending machine and started staring at him: "Please say no" and "Please don't hit me".

Tifa didn't do either. "Really? You don't mind? I could use a friend or two right now."

Yuffie answered before Cid could even open his mouth. "Sure. That's what we're here for!"

She led Tifa off to a table far away and out of view of the Wonder Catcher. A reluctant Cid trailed slowly after, getting distracted by a television showing the latest chocobo races until the shadow of Yuffie's boomerang fell upon the screen.

Once seated, the taciturn Tifa switched gears and would not shut up. "I feel like I'm being so stupid. They're both my friends and they're just out having fun like the rest of us, well except for Vincent and Barrett and the gods only know what Cait Sith is up to - he creeps me out sometimes - and I guess I'm not having much fun either since I'm wasting my time being jealous for no real reason, but it's not for no reason, I mean Cloud and I go way back and I'm the one who brought him to Avalanche but he doesn't seem to pay any attention to me while he's so worried about protecting Aeris, but maybe that's just because he knows I know how to take care of myself and all Aeris has it that stupid staff she only half knows how to use, but she is getting better - "

She was interrupted by a loud yawn. Yuffie would have reprimanded Cid, but the truth was, she was feeling a little sleepy herself.

"So to summarize," Cid summarized, "Cloud ain't paying attention to you and that's got you in a twist. I hate to break this to you, but that boy's got some problems. There are plenty of fish in the sea that don't get funky headaches or have trouble remembering what the hell they've been doing for the past five years. Personally, I think you can do better." Cid congratulated himself. He was supportive of Tifa and dissed the bad, bad man. Shera's talk shows would definitely approve.

Tifa did not. "But, it's Cloud. I've known him since we were children. I…" She was much too embarrassed to finish.

"Well, you haven't told him how you feel and Aeris is so open with her emotions. Maybe he spends so much time with her because he doesn't know he has options," Yuffie weighed in.

"But I can't be like Aeris. Every time I try to tell him something, I can't speak. My mouth goes dry and my mind goes blank. Aeris is so friendly. She can flirt with him. She can say anything to him. And she's got that mystical Cetra air to her."

"Yeah, so," Cid countered. "She ain't a D cup. Just jiggle your way over there and Cloud won't even be able to remember her name."

Tifa looked at Cid in sheer horror. Yuffie looked down and slouched over self-consciously.

"Oh, come on. He's a man." Cid thought about the photo Aeris had shown him of Cloud at the Wall Market. He reconsidered briefly and continued on, "He's a guy and guys, even the ones that pretend to be all sensitive and shit, go for that kind of thing. I'm more of an ass man myself - "

"No kidding," Yuffie interjected.

" - But you need something to get his attention. Now, you can't build a life by sticking your chest out, but it's a hell of a foundation."

"Cid! I couldn't! I wouldn't want to get his attention that way."

"Sweetheart, if that skirt of yours were any shorter, it would be a belt. Don't tell me you're shy."

Yuffie had had the same thoughts about the skirt but she had kept silent given the diminutive nature of her own shorts and her tendency to leave the top unbuttoned. Still, sisterhood or something like that obligated her to put up some sort of defense on Tifa's behalf. "She dresses that way because it's…uh…comfortable. She's not doing it to be eye candy for a bunch of pigs."

"Oink," Cid offered as a rebuttal.

"Okay, okay. Can we forget about my skirt and all that," Tifa urged. She didn't want to get into the practical applications of a micro mini-skirt for increasing tips at the bar. "This is about my feelings."

Cid snored dramatically. "Oooooo, your feelings. That'll reel him in."

"Ignore him," Yuffie advised. "You and Cloud have a history. Why don't you play on that? You were kids together. You're the only two who remember the real Nibelheim before it got baked…uh, I mean horribly destroyed. Just casually bring it up in conversation. You know like when he starts going off the deep end about Sephiroth, you can sorta say like, 'Yeah, he can never be forgiven for burning down the source of all our great, happy childhood memories. You remember how much fun we had back then. You know, you and I….TOGETHER.' It could work."

"Yeah," Cid conceded, "Or he could get all freaky again or maybe start seething with vengeance or - "

Yuffie kicked him under the table.

Tifa was skeptical. "I guess reminiscing might bring us closer."

"Just don't bore the guy. If you have to dredge through the past," Cid said, "Make it something he wants to hear. Men don't like reminiscing unless it involves sports or cool explosions. I guess you've got a lot of that last one to go over."

Yuffie kicked him harder.

"Hey, you're the one who said the town got baked!" Cid shot back.

"I corrected myself!"

"Um, guys? Can we get back to Cloud?" Tifa asked. She couldn't endure any more euphemisms for the destruction of her hometown.

Cid and Yuffie settled down, but one more kick from Yuffie substituted for the last word.

"Cid, can I ask you something?" Tifa wasn't sure if this was wise but Yuffie was too young to have in a serious relationship with anyone so that really left Cid as the one to ask. Then she thought of the "relationship" he was in. It was a long shot, but she was getting desperate. "You're in a….you're involved with…you care about…you've lived with…uh…you've been aware of Shera's existence for awhile now. How do you two make it…well, not necessarily work, but…"

"You mean 'how come Shera hasn't killed you in your sleep yet?' Right, Tifa?" Yuffie supplied helpfully. "I'm kinda wondering that myself…"

"Shera and I are not - I repeat NOT - in a relationship, involved or any other girly thing you want to call it. She screwed up and she's paying me back for it. End of story."

"But you live together," Tifa pointed out.

"And she does all this housewifey stuff," Yuffie added.

"She's like a live-in maid," Cid concluded. "A servant. Because she - "

"Ruined your chance to go out into space, blah, blah, blah," Yuffie said. "But when you dump on somebody long enough, eventually they'll rise up against their oppressor. And since she hasn't been putting poison in your tea, I'm thinking there's more to it than some abusive master/slave deal."

"Shera respects me," Cid answered.

"But how do you feel about her?" Tifa pressed on. "If she really bothered you that much, you wouldn't let her stay at your home. You wouldn't spend as much time with her as you do."

"I'm here now, aren't I?" Cid said, a bit defensively.

"Yeah, but for like, YEARS, you were there." Yuffie sensed she and Tifa had him cornered.

But cornered prey is dangerous prey. Cid altered his tactics. "I thought we were supposed to be discussing why Cloud drools all over Aeris and not you, Tifa. And what the @#%$ would you know about anything anyway, Yuffie? Don Corneo doesn't exactly count as a suitor and I've seen the looks you give Valentine. Guy's older than I am and hung up his ex-girlfriend who dumped his ass for Hojo. And I'm pretty sure he's been dead before. That's what you're going after? Do the words 'jailbait' and 'NAS-TY' mean anything to you?"

There was a reason (one beyond being in the aviation program longer than anyone) for Cid being promoted to the rank of captain. His plans, while often spur of the moment, half-assed concoctions of gut instinct and pure luck, usually panned out. Cid watched as this proved true once more.

"You like Vincent?"

"NO! I just think he's good looking. That's all."

"But…everything Cid just said…"

"So? That doesn't make him ugly."

"Well, no. But I find it odd you would be attracted to him."

"Oh, yeah. Dark, romantic, mysterious hot guys are such a turn off."

"But he's so old…"

"He doesn't look it! And besides, I don't have an oblivious childhood friend to moon over while he's making time with another woman WHO HE OBVIOUSLY PREFERS."

"Yeah, it's so much easier when the guy is pining away for a dead woman."

Cid rocked back in his chair. They were off his back and knee-deep in a catfight. Stick Aeris in for Yuffie, and this would be better than any of the late night shows the Gold Saucer put on. If he could somehow get that blond, female Turk involved…

When the profanities and synonyms for a woman of questionable virtue started flying, Cid's conscience woke from hibernation and gave a little tug. Tifa and Yuffie were his comrades in arms. Tifa was going through a bad spot and Yuffie…well, she deserved what she got for roping him into this. His conscience gave him a fierce yank. He did sort of start this.

"Ladies, ladies. There's no need to fight. It's simple. Tifa, if Cloud's too stupid to realize what he's got, cut him loose. Don't waste any more time on him. You got to use your assets while you still got 'em. Sashay around a little and you'll have an army of guys. Yuffie, you need to go to a psychiatrist. I'm thinking you've got some weird father issues you need to be resolving PDQ. See gals, it is simple!"

Raised fist and razor-edged boomerang were leveled at Cid's head. Perhaps it was more complex than he had estimated.

Twin cries of "Who asked you?!" were the last thing he heard before taking off in a mad dash down the hall. He skidded into the Battle Arena just as a boomerang sunk itself into the entrance gate.

@#%$ing women. He was only trying to help.