Author's Notes: First time using slash of any kind in FF7.

Bottle Blonde

By Cendrillo


It took a lot of willpower to not just sleep with the blonde. To not just keep pouring the drinks and pretend that they affected me. To wake up the morning after and blame it all on being silly or something equally believable.

Sometimes, I wonder, if it's the hair that does me in. I've always liked blondes, especially cropped at this length. And left natural, so that it falls in the eyes.

But the eyes were what woke me up to the reality. This wasn't Cloud. I could live with that. But this also wasn't... a guy, either.

I remembered how she used to look. Tired. Empty. Chasing. In those eyes I saw myself, as clichéd and usual as that sounds. Well, myself a while before she wandered into my bar. A bar that I'd long since converted into a restaurant, since the cooking always meant more to me than the booze. She'd actually been my biggest help in all that.

Always the professional, my Elena.

I never liked to claim possession... especially over people. But she, she begged for it. She wanted someone to lay claim over her and just keep her. Not a wandering stray anymore, but she wanted to be kept. I could see it in the way she carried herself.

"You know, from the back, sometimes you look Wutain."

I'd felt the eyes before, following me as I cleaned up for the night. Little flickers as she did whatever she could to help. I'd given her the Job, and she'd given me someone to talk to. Most people were satisfied with an arrangement like that. Except, I never am. Never can be. My brain twists things all wrong.

The same brain that can turn a little boy that was nothing more than a passing shadow into my one and only. The same brain that can reinvent...

No, Lockheart. Don't start thinking like that. Future, not past. You are over that much; don't relapse because you see a pretty blonde.

"What's that supposed to mean?" I ask, with a laugh because this is really just absurd. I don't like women. I don't. Not like that. I like pretty blond men. Blue eyes optional, because then it would just be a sick sort of substitution. And gods, she'd already had plenty of that for a lifetime.

"Just looking, that's all," she replies innocently, "It's the hair... just so dark. Especially in this lighting." Mood lighting. When people think of sex, they eat more, thus pay me more money so I can send it off to the misplaced Migarians. I didn't need it myself, selling off my materia alone was enough for me to live comfortably.

But this lighting wasn't very good for me at the moment. Reluctant attraction and dim lighting is a bad combination. Good thing I'm straight. Straight, straight, straight.

"Well, it's a mountainfolk thing," we've gotten into easy conversation patterns, so even though I feel odd, I can still sound natural, "Most have really dark hair. Now blonde... that's a rarity."

There were bottle blonds running all around that town. Kids trying to be different. But this, this is the future, and I haven't see a dyed one in a long time. People just don't care about the same things anymore.

I hear a thump behind me. I whip around quickly, and see that she's just sitting on the floor. She landed hard, but judging by her position, it was intentional.

"I keep wondering why I let you talk me into this," she breathes out, that tired look flashing through her eyes, "Why I bothered with this... professionalism is dead. Just, dead."

I crouch down beside her, the instinct catching me full in the face. This, affection, my misplaced mothering... it always gets me in trouble. But my Elena doesn't need to think about such things. She just needs some nice warm tea and a cozy bed.

"I didn't talk you into anything," coaxing, comfortable, this is my arena, and I can relax for real, "And you can leave if you want." I smooth back some of her hair and she closes her eyes. Just relax, you'll be fine. It didn't kill us, did it?

"You're right... but..." she bites her lip, and I pat her back. Misplaced mothering, Tifa. This is Elena... you can't just...

"Tifa, look at me when I'm talking." My mind wanders, and so do my eyes. It's a bad habit, but a true one. I have strange eyes, even for a mountain person... my branding, I guess. Drunk men like to tell me how pretty they are... sober men avoid them.

"Sorry," I say and she's got that defiant bossy look on her face. Without the Boss, she assumes a more aggressive role in any business juncture. She's a proud fool sometimes, and I can see why they kept her on such a short leash. Or why she seemed like such a bumbling fool.

I don't even want to think what her first impressions of me were.

"Why did you cut your hair?" she says, forcefully, "It used to be so pretty long."

"It's manageable now," I see why they used to say she talked too much; twice over since she's been working here, "Shoulder length is practical." Elena raises a thin eyebrow.

Wait. Wutain. Hair... oh you silly girl. Didn't think I would catch on, did you?

"Elena, what is this really about?" I say, parent/teacher conference like. So who is the teacher now? Or was there ever anything like that? And since when did I become the stable person?

"Rationalizing, I guess," she bites her lip before speaking again, and I fixate on it, "I don't know... you probably never had that sort of problem..."

"What problem? You know that I'll always talk with you." Hi, I'm mother Tifa, and I don't think there's a word for my disorder. But feel free to stop by any time and I'll pour you a drink and wrap you up into my life. I collect people like buttons. Only thing is, they're so small that they have a tendency to get lost. So, I have to sew them onto my jacket, with strong thread too. There's no escaping.

She gives me that look. The one that says that I will not like what I'm about to hear. The one that says she's already figured out the variables...

I'm crouched down next to her. In this lighting. Close enough for mothering, and close enough for... the realization hits me. And she's probably going to tell me that it was fun, but she's got to chase the past. We are so alike in that regard, only I'm... done.

Damn, why can't I pick simple people?

"I think... I think that...." she stutters, and I can't help but picture the Turk Elena, the one that I used to think was a little too funny for their numbers, "that I'm..." She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes in concentration.

"Kindaattractedtoyou," she finishes up, in a quick and funny voice. I must look shocked because she frowns when she opens her eyes to look at me. Because... I am shocked. I'm straight, but... Elena? Does that imply...

"I thought you liked men." Great work there, Tifa. You've turned into a regular Yuffie Kisaragi with that mouth. Good thing that she isn't around so much that I'm affected too badly... but maybe... maybe I am a loudmouth. And this babble in my head is just that... babble.

Elena laughs as if she expected a far more negative response.

"In Shinra?" she says with a very incredulous tone, "You have to play both sides... And I was fairly decent compared to most of them." I know I'm blushing. Damn me and my propriety.

"Oh, ok. Sorry, that was..." I don't know how to move on from this conversation ending. I don't. I'm not sure of anything; I'm just... dear Gaia, why didn't I get to deal with this sort of thing when I was younger?

"It's not like I expect anything, Tifa," she interrupts me, "Just had to get it out, you know?"

I don't know what possesses me. Maybe it's because when she blinks her eyes she looks like everything I've always thought was beautiful, but when she talks, she is just her.

But she kinda tastes like lip gloss. That's odd.

She breaks away and stares wide-eyed at me. What a time to get bold. What a time... And I can't help myself. I want to ask her where she got her lip gloss, but that's terribly inappropriate for what's going on.

"I'm not him," she pants, confused expression on her face, "I'm not even male, Tifa." I shake my head, every muscle in my body screaming at me to pin her against the floor. I tentatively pull my fingers through her hair... gods, she's a natural. No dark roots. All light and pretty and...

"I don't care anymore," I whisper pushing closer, closer, "I don't care... I just, want the thoughts to go away from my head and just do, just go ahead..." She's not pushing away, she's not pulling me either. Hang in limbo with me a little longer, Elena?

"What am I ever going to do with you?" she says, adding a mock snooty tone to her voice. I can't help but laugh. So close to the edge and she still gives me an out. It's all the push I need to try something I've always wanted to...

Martial arts come in handy for many things.

She looks confused at how easily I get her into position, so like giggly school girls at a slumber party. Well, that's the straight man fantasy anyway. But she's getting aggressive with me, and I can't help but wonder what it'll be like tomorrow...

"You know, I think you look good straddling me," she says, using inhuman dexterity skills to relieve me of my clothing. Not that I bury myself under yards of fabric; some habits die hard.

Advance, retreat, block, let past... I can't help but think back to my training. Only Zangan wasn't this attractive. Or giggly. I'd always been under the impression that sex was serious, that sex was something else.

Is this sex?

Where her hands are suggest that. Where mine are suggest that too. I'm glad that I swept the floor, and that I didn't opt for the older stock. A million and one such silly thoughts fly through my head, and they all focus on the fact that she's a natural. A natural.

Before I know it, the mood lighting is being dissipated by the sun's stronger orangey rays. I'm under her now, and she snores... very loudly. And she must have to blow dry that amazingly natural hair of hers in the mornings considering the incredible cowlick it has.

But there's something in the pit of my stomach.

"Did I jump the gun?" I ask, not really wanting her to hear me. She shifts and snores in my ear. I almost break down at its simplicity. I wasn't substituting... I wasn't... and that scares me more than anything.

A snort.

She's kinda heavy in this limp dead asleep state. I'm pinned now; grinning like a fool because I knew it was the other way around only hours ago... at least my dreams will have better definition. Doing and thinking are so different...

I'll wait, for now. I'll see if screwing the boss really did anything for her. If she even realized that she'd finally done that... just, with me. Things always come full circle; I've learned that a little too much.

At least she won't have to hide her bottles of bleach from me. At least I won't have to snoop through her closet to find them.

The floor isn't comfortable. But I find a way to drift off to sleep anyway. Thank Gaia it's Sunday, when I'm closed.

It's going to take all day to fully appreciate this.

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