A/N: New chapter! I finished this a couple of days ago, but kind of forgot to post it. Whoops. Here you go!
Disclaimer: I do not own.
The small bit of stretching that I'd managed to get in earlier that day had done nothing to improve the ache of my muscles, and having to carry the large drum back to my camper wasn't exactly high on my list of wants. The air had finally released the heat that it'd been so desperate to hold onto, and the sunset had begun to cast a faint glow over the lake and surrounding land.
Including the girl sitting alone on the bench.
"Tifa?" She turned around, a large grin spreading across her face as she recognized mine.
"Squall! Wow, look at you." Patting the seat next to her, she took the drum out of my hands as though it weighed nothing, and set it down on the ground in front of her, "It's been too long."
Laughing, I lifted my arms above my head and stretched some more, grateful for the reprieve. "Maybe not long enough," I responded, dodging out of the way when she went to smack me across the head.
I'd known Tifa for almost my whole life, having met her on the reservation when we'd been children learning the myths and legends of our ancestors. She'd always been one to turn heads, and I was sure that her 'out there' personality certainly hadn't helped. Neither did the size of her bust, now that I thought about it.
"Well, how goes the whole 'out of the closet dating' thing?"
I raised an eyebrow, glancing at her skeptically. "Well, it's difficult to do any dating at all considering the fact that everyone seems to be forcing people into my face." She had enough decency to look slightly abashed. "I don't do much dating. One night stands are my current favorite thing."
"Silly boy," she cooed, brushing the hair out of my face and continue to run her fingers through it, "One night stands are only for horny men who have no idea where they're going in life." She paused in both her words and her petting momentarily before smiling slightly, the embarrassment that wasn't apparent within the smile becoming so in her words, "I am sorry for not giving you a fair warning, though. I won't apologize for introducing you to Cloud – Lord knows he needs this just as badly as you do – but I will apologize for not giving you a warning."
If I knew anything about Tifa, which I did, that was about as good of an apology as I was going to get. So, I nodded and allowed myself to give in to her sisterly coddling. Not that I would ever admit that to anyone, of course. "That poor boy," I said, chuckling, "You could have at least brought him to a place where he didn't stand out so badly."
I felt her shrug, "Eh, he tries so hard to blend in and be invisible, I just wanted to put him in some spotlight for once."
"Forget put, you forcibly shoved him there."
"Well, what I lack in subtlety, I make up for in love."
I rolled my eyes, hiding the smile that stretched across my face.
Cloud – Several Days Later
Pacing the sidewalk outside of the restaurant, I checked the watch on my left wrist and sighed. It was bad enough that I'd agreed to allow Tifa any sort of control on my love life, but then, to add insult to injury, to set me up with someone who clearly couldn't even tell time? God.
"Are you Cloud?" The blond walked up to the front of the restaurant, stopping my pacing and instead forcing a look of confusion to cross my face. "I'm Zell, you're…" He swallowed noticeably, "Date."
"Right. Yes, I'm Cloud. It's nice to meet you."
It was nice of him to at least pretend like me meant it, but I could tell from the sweat on his brow and the frequent looks at the people around us that he didn't. I wasn't even sure that he wanted to be here in the first place, and wondered what exactly Tifa had promised to get this poor boy just to come out with me.
This date was making me feel more and more pathetic by the minute.
We made our way inside, and one of the waitresses took us to the table that Tifa had reserved. It was private, but not so much that we were completely alone. After half a bottle of wine and awkward conversations that ended before they'd even really began, Zell and I lapsed into silence, staring at the couples surround us as though we were desperately trying to integrate ourselves into their dates and out of ours. Well, maybe not him, but I certainly was.
I noticed Zell turn towards me out of the corner of my eye and I reciprocated the gesture, watching him survey my face. "Do you work at the hospital?" He asked.
"Um, yes?" God, it would be just my luck if this guy turned out to be a stalker.
"I knew I recognized you!" He suddenly perked up, eyes twinkling with excitement, "I work on the surgical staff."
Oh. "Oh." How on Earth had Tifa managed that? "I hope this won't make things awkward at work."
The excitement that had seem to jolt through my date's body quickly faded, and Zell nodded, grabbing his fork and poking at the food that had long been cold. But just as quickly as he'd picked up his fork, he threw it down. "Can I be straight with you?"
"Well, that's kind of an awkward question."
Chuckling, Zell flashed me a quick smile, "Right, unfortunate phrasing. Can I be honest with you?"
I rolled my eyes. "I knew what you meant, Zell." I responded, "Go ahead."
"Right. Right. Okay," he scooted forward in his seat, "I'm not gay."
"I'm sorry," he responded, giving me a sheepish grin, "But you have to understand that I can't refuse Tifa when she asks me things."
I leaned forward in my own seat, resting my chin on my hand and trying not to show my complete and utter disbelief. This was just my luck, wasn't it? "How do you even know Tifa?"
"Oh! We went to college together, we had a couple of classes together and kept in contact. Well," He paused, deliberating his choice of words, "Maybe not in contact, necessarily. More like, she came to the hospital to bring you lunch one day and we ran into each other."
"So you like her?" I didn't know why I'd asked such an obvious question, considering the fact that Zell had gotten this dreamy look on his face the moment that my busty, dark-haired best friend had been mentioned.
"Not necessarily," I raised an eyebrow, "Okay, yes. Quite a lot. Unfortunately she came up to me and asked me how I felt about dating a man and I froze and then she asked and it was already too late," he dropped his face in his hands, "I'm sorry."
Chuckling, I patted his head, feeling sorry for the poor boy. He clearly had no idea what exactly he'd done. "Not as sorry as you will be. You realize that you basically told her that you were gay and would never be able to date her?"
"Oh shit, indeed."
"I'm doomed." He groaned, throwing up his arms. "This sucks."
Signaling to the waiter for the check, I pushed my plate to the end of the table, taking a large gulp of the wine and setting my glass at the end as well. "Look," There was no point in saying that, since I clearly had his undivided attention, "I'll put in a good word, okay? No guarantees, but I'll tell her that you were just confused by the question." The waiter finally came with the check, and I gave him a grateful smile, "Thanks." I turned back to Zell, patting his hand before slipping my card – the one that was about to take a huge hit – into the little black folder. "Supper is still on me."
Nodding gratefully, Zell excused himself and made his way to the toilet, leaving me at the table cradling my own head. Maybe allowing Tifa to choose my dates was more than a bad idea. It was a horrible idea. And with her current batting average? I was doomed. Maybe it was high time to look into adopting a cat. Or several.
Now I'm off to watch The Doctor, until next time, my darlings!