by Frank Verderosa

Cid walked into the lounge at Avalanche headquarters carrying a videotape and a six pack. Vincent was sitting on the couch munching on popcorn.

"Hey, that's supposed to be for the movie!" Cid said.

"Sorry," Vincent replied between mouthfuls. "What did you get?"

"The best movie ever!" Cid replied proudly. "Death Race 2000."

"Never heard of it," Vincent said with a shrug.

"You'll love it," Cid said as he walked into the kitchen. Vincent heard him puttering around in the fridge. In a minute he came back in holding two beers.

"Where's Cloud?" Cid asked, looking around.

"He's getting ready for his date," Vincent replied, pointing toward the bathroom.

Just as he said this Cloud's head appeared in the doorway.

"Say, do we have any more mousse?" he asked. "I'm all out."

"All out?" Cid questioned. "You just bought six bottles last week!"

Cloud shrugged.

"You're point is?"

Cid rolled his eyes.

"I don't know why you need all that mousse," he said. "My hair looks just like that every morning when I get up out of bed."

Cloud just gave him a dark look.

"I think there's some in the hall closet," Vincent said.

"Thanks," Cloud replied.

"So, who's your date with?" Cid questioned.

"Aeris," Cloud replied as he walked by.

Vincent looked at him.

"Aeris? I thought you told me your date was with Tifa," he said.

Cloud stopped for a moment and frowned.

"Yeah, I guess I did, didn't I," he said, and walked out into the hallway.

Vincent and Cid looked at one another.

"So what, are you going out with both of them?" Cid questioned.

They could hear Cloud fumbling around in the hallway closet.

"Umm, not exactly," he replied faintly.

They both stared at him as he walked back into the room.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Cid said.

Cloud stopped and looked at them for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders innocently.

"I kind of made a little scheduling mistake," he said.

Cid looked at him for a moment, then grinned suddenly.

"You accidently asked them both out on the same night!" he said.

Cloud nodded.

"Fraid so."

"So, why don't you just cancel with one of them?" Vincent questioned.

"Well, I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings," he replied.

"Yeah, right," Cid responded sarcastically.

"If Aeris finds out she'll be heartbroken," Vincent admonished.

"And if Tifa finds out she'll kick your ass," Cid said with a grin.

"They're not going to find out," Cloud said sharply. "I've got the whole thing carefully planned I have every contingency covered. Not only will they not find out, they won't even suspect a thing."

Cloud walked back into the bathroom.

Cid popped the cassette into the VCR and sat down next to Vincent.

"He's doomed," Vincent observed.

"Yeah," Cid replid. "Pass the popcorn."


Cloud and Aeris walked into The Gold Chocobo and looked around. Aeris slipped off her coat and handed it to Cloud. She was wearing a long blue satin dress. Cloud looked at her approvingly.

"Wow," he said. "You look almost as good as me!"

"Uh, thanks," Aeris replied.

The Maitre Di approached them.

"Two for dinner?" he questioned.

"Yes," Cloud replied.

"Very good, we have a table available right over here by the fireplace," the Maitre Di indicated a table in full view of the front entrace.

"That will be perfect..." Aeris began.

"NO," Cloud said loudly.

They both looked at him.

"No," he said in a calmer voice. "It will be much too hot there. We need a table far from the fire. Far far from the fire." he waved his hand toward the back of the room.

"Very well, " the Maitre Di responded. He led them to a table in the middle of the room and looked at Cloud.

Cloud looked back at the door and shook his head.

They continued back to the rear of the resturant. Cloud spotted a table wedged between the door to the kitchen and a small utility room. It had no view of the front door. In fact, it had no view at all.

"Perfect," he said, indicating the table. Aeris looked at it dissaprovingly while the Maitre Di just shook his head.

"Very well, sir."

They sat down and the Maitre Di walked away.

"This spot is just perfect!" Cloud said, looking at Aeris. "Don't you think?"

"Yeah, perfect," she repeated as the kitchen door swung open and banged agaisnt her chair.

The waiter came over to their table

"Are you ready to order?" he asked.

"Yes," Aeris replied. "I'll have a large rilfsak salad."

"And I'll take..." Cloud said, glancing quickly at the menu, "the Lost Number Special."

"Good choices," the waiter said and walked away.

"Excuse me a minute, will you?" Cloud said. He got up, smiled at her and walked back toward the front entrance. Even as he approached it he saw Tifa walk in.

"Tifa," he exclaimed, coming over to her. "You look lovely. Sorry I couldn't come pick you up, but my Chocobo's at the Vets."

"That's okay," Tifa replied plesantly. "Let's get a table."

She signaled the Matri Di, who walked over slowly.

"Table for two please," she said.

"Yes," Cloud interjected. "Something up front here, close to the fire."

The Maitre Di looked at him for a moment with an odd expression.

"How about this table over here?" he suggested, pointing to the one he had shown Cloud earilir, "unless you think that might be too warm?"

"That's fine," Cloud replied quickly. "It is a lovely fire, isn't it, Tifa."

When she turned to look at the fire he turned to the Maitre Di, put his finger to his lips, and shoved twenty gil in his hand.

"Very good sir," the Maitre Di said, and left.

"It's beautiful here," Tifa commented, looking around as they sat down, "and so romantic."

"Well, nothing but the best for you, my dear," Cloud replied.

Tifa blushed just slightly as the waiter came over.

"And what will we be having tonight?" he asked, looking at Tifa.

She looked up at a blackboard by the door that had the day's specials on it.

"Oh look, Cloud," she said. "They're having a special on Bottomeswell steak. That's your favorite, isn't it? We'll each have one of those, rare please."

The waiter looked at Cloud.

"But I thought you were having..."

"YOU HEARD THE LADY!" Cloud said angrily. "Don't argue, just do it!"

The waiter stepped back in surprise.

"Right away sir," he said, walking away quickly.

"What was that all about?" Tifa questioned.

"Beats me," Cloud replied. "Damn waiters thing they know everything. I'll be back in a moment, I have to use the bathroom"

Aeris was sitting with her head propped on her hands when he returned. She sat up when she saw him.

"It's very nice here," she said, "but this seat doesn't afford much of a view. Maybe we should ask for a different table."

He sat down quickly. He smiled at her and took her hand.

"With you sitting in front of me, I don't need a view," he said.

Aeris smiled and nodded.

"Oh Cloud, you say the nicest things."

Just then the waiter came over with two plates.

"Your dinners," he said. (Of course, in a real restaurant the food would never come this quickly, but hey, the plot has to move along.)

"Two Bottomswell steaks, rare," he finished.

Aeris jumped up in her chair, banging into the kitchen door just as it opened. A waitress coming out was thrown back into the kitchen. There was a loud crash and the sound of breaking plates and saucers. The sound went on for quite some time.

"This is the wrong order," she cried. "I can't eat this. I'm a vegetarian."

The waiter looked at them, confused.

"I'm terribly sorry, but this is what..."

"WHAT KIND OF RESTURANT IS THIS?" Cloud stood up and demanded loudly. "You can't even get a simple order right? I happen to know the resturant critic for the Midgar Daily, and I'm certainly going to give him a piece of my mind. Now take that away immediately and bring the lady her salad!"

"Yes sir!" the waiter said, picking up her plate and hurrying away.

They both sat down again.

"I can't believe the service here," Cloud grumbled.

"It is kind of a surprise," Aeris replied. "Talk is that this is one of the best resturants in town. Looks like they got your order wrong too, are you going to send that back?"

Cloud looked down at his plate.

"Naw, that's okay. They'll probably just screw it up again."

He shook his head.

"And I really wanted this night to be special," he said.

Aeris smiled again.

"It's alright. It hasn't been spoiled."

"Still, it isn't turning out the way I had hoped, but maybe this will make it better. I have a little gift for you."

Aeris eyes lit up.


"Yes, it's something..."

Just then he was interrupted by a beeping sound.

He pulled out his pager and looked at it.

"I'll go get this call and be right back," he said, standing up. "I'm sure it's nothing too important."

Cloud turned his beeper off as he walked back to Tifa. He had set it on auto page to provide an excuse to leave. The timing wasnít perfect, but it would do. The wonders of modern technology.

Tifa looked at him when he sat down.

" Are you all right?" she asked. "You were gone a long time."

" Fine," he replied with a smile. "Just a touch of indigestion."

" And we havenít even eaten yet," she said.

"Well, at least I canít blame it on their food," he replied. "By the way, I have a suprise for you."

"For me?" she said in suprise, her face lighting up.

"Yes," he replied. He reached into his pocket and pulled out two small wrapped boxes, keeping them under the table where Tifa couldnít see. One was wrapped in red and the other in green. He made sure to color code them before he left. The red one was for Tifa.

"Thereís a familiar face," she said suddenly, looking past him.

Cloud jerked up as his heart skipped a beat. As he did so he banged his hand on the bottem of the table. One of the gifts fell to the floor, rolled, and stopped Tifaís feet.

He looked behind him quickly, but it was only Reno walking over to the bar. He turned back toward Tifa as she picked up the green gift and ripped it open.

"Why Cloud, you shouldnít have," she said.

"Itís..." she opend the cover and looked inside.

She took the small trinket out of the box and held it up. It was a jeweled pin in the shape of an ĎAí.

"....lovely," she finished with less enthusiasim.

"I, er, uh, that is," Cloud stuttered. "Itís an A"

"I can see that," she said thinly.

"Itís, itís one of the letters of your name," he said quickly. "I was planning on getting you a pin for each letter, but that was the only letter they had right now."

"I see.." she said slowly.

"Uh...Iíll be right back," he said, wiping his brow and getting up. "Iím going to see whatís taking them so long with our food."

He walked away quickly. Things werenít working out quite the way he planned.Aeris meal had been replaced when he got back to her.

He sat down and saw her looking at him expectantly.

"That was the Vet," he said quickly. "My Chocobo is okay. Just a touch of claw and beak disease."

Aeris nodded.

"And?" she said.

He gave her a puzzled look.

"And what?"

"You said you had something for me."

"Right," he said slowly, breaking out into a sweat. "I did, didnít I."

His hand went into his pocket and closed around the gift. Unfortunately Aeris name had no ĎTísí in it.

"Umm, yeah, I, uh,"

He heard her foot tapping on the floor.

"Uh, here you go," he said, pushing his plate over to her. "You can have my baked potato. I know how muh you like your vegetables."

She looked at his plate.

"Iím touched," she said finally.

"Yeah, uh, Iíll be right back," he said. "I have to use the bathroom."

He walked into the bathroom and wiped the sweat off his brow. He took a deep breath. Okay, things hadnít gone so well, but look at the bright side. It couldnít get any worse, right?

When ha came back to the table Aeris was gone. He hurried into the other room Tifa was gone too!

"Oh Cloud!"

He looked over to see Aeris, Reno, Tifa and Rude standing by the front entrance. A drop of sweat dripped in his eye as they came over.

"Wh, whatís going on?" he stammered.

"We decided we werenít that hungry," Aeris said, wrapping her arms around Reno. "Iím going over Renoís. Heís promised to show me some unusual things you can do with an electromag rod."

"What?" Cloud managed to get out between gagging sounds.

"And Iím going with Rude," Tifa said, smiling sweetly. "Heís promised to take me home and show me his gun..."

Cloudís jaw dropped.

"...collection," she finished demurely.

"But, I,..."

Aeris and Tifa gave him a little wave.

"I just love a well dressed man," Aeris said, turning to Reno as they walked away.

"And I never realized before how sexy bald men were," Tifa exclaimed.

"See you around," they both said as they walked out the door.

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