Marlene had made a point of looking for potential dates outside her extended family's area of influence. Granted, it made finding someone more difficult, because the boy in question not only had to appeal to her in terms of personality and appearance, but had to be completely oblivious to exactly who her family was. However, the benefit was tremendous in that anyone who fit her criteria didn't turn into a stuttering wreck at the mere mention of setting foot in her home.

Gabe, for example, was from some tiny little town on the Western continent, and had only moved to Edge in the last few months. He was cute, well built, and had no idea that Marlene was the daughter of one of the decade's most famous figures, or that she lived with two more, one of whom was Cloud Strife.

The Cloud Strife. Wielder of massively oversized swords, vanquisher of Sephiroth, and the first Ulfhednar capable of shifting in generations. Never mind that Cloud was also incredibly sweet and would bend over backward for her or Tifa or Denzel. Just try explaining that to a seventeen year old boy who was certain the swordsman could also read minds and knew exactly how much said boy wanted to kiss her.

No, it was far simpler to find someone like Gabe.

That was the theory, at least.

So she felt no qualms about ushering him into the living room, and leaving him alone for ten minutes while she finished getting ready.

Gabe watched her go, admiring the sway of her hips and the bounce of her chest, then turned to find blue eyes watching him from a furry face. Marlene hadn't said anything about owning a dog, but stretched out on the sofa was some large breed mutt with unusual coloring and too intelligent eyes. Grinning, he strolled over to flop down on the sofa next to the beast, stretching one arm out along the back of the piece of furniture, and letting the other rest on the animal.

It blinked at him with every indication of surprise, and... grumbled... low in its throat. It didn't bare its teeth or anything, though, so he felt fairly safe staying where he was.

"I bet making nice with you will impress Marlene plenty," he commented, letting his gaze wander the room, thus missing the way the animal narrowed its eyes in a very human fashion. "Say, are you the reason for the lack of competition? Most of the guys in this town seem like complete pansies. They probably shake in their boots at the sight of a brute like you." A heavy hand landed on the animal's forehead, ostensibly to rub its ears. "Thanks, pal. I could not believe my luck when I found out a curvy little thing like her was available." Chuckling, he completely failed to notice that his companion had started to growl when his hand had moved, and had progressed to showing a bit of fang. "She's naive as all get out, too. I'm damned sure I'll be her first–"

His bragging broke off into a howl of pain, followed by a scream of terror. Marlene came running, and was remarkably unsurprised to find him splayed out on the floor, pinned there by a hundred pounds of angry dog. Wolf. Whatever. The thing's teeth were entirely too close to his throat, and he swallowed nervously, his eyes pleading for help. His right hand already bore the marks from those teeth, and was bleeding from a full and clear imprint.

"Gabe! What did you say?"

He stared at her, gaze shocked and vaguely panicked. "Not the time, Marlene!" his voice, a strained whisper, was a touch panicked, too. "Get this thing off of me!" The wolf's growling increased at his use of the word, "thing," and he closed his eyes, certain he was going to die.

The wolf rolled his.

"Stop being so stupid!" Marlene said in a tone of great exasperation. "Cloud isn't going to kill you, he's just not going to let me leave the house with you." The wolf made a huffing sound, louder than a growl but not quite a bark. Apparently it was a sound of agreement, because it eased back an inch and sat on its haunches, letting Gabe wriggle away and climb to his feet. Without looking back or apologizing, the teen then turned and bolted, the door slamming behind him after his headlong rush to escape.

Arms crossed, Marlene glared at Cloud. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a date with you around?" she demanded.

His response was a self-satisfied canine grin.

Stomping her feet to give vent to her frustration, she went back upstairs to change into more comfortable clothes, as she obviously wasn't going out. On the way, she passed Denzel.

"I sure as hell hope you like me," she told him, never breaking stride, "because at this rate, you're gonna be the only guy in Edge allowed to even talk to me, much less ask me out!"