Bearthday Cake

Red Rock 
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Ultimately, they found a Mexican restaraunt nearby that wasn't entirely horrible as far as reviews went. He was honestly not that picky, considering his bear was telling him to just shift and go eat some cow or something. He'd settle for some enchiladas that were 'a little greasy' and a margarita that 'tastes a little like dish soap'. Plus, it was good to sort of explore the area, get a good feel of what was around. Just in case, he didn't know, someone one day needed him to come to Chachi's because they were about to shift over some black beans that were 'so hot they burned my mouth.'

The drive was short and the wait was shorter. Before long they were seated and being served a mountain of chips and salsa, which he ate eagerly as he waited for his Modelo to arrive. "Red Rock kind of reminds me of where I grew up." He commented as he looked over Ayane's shoulder to a mural on the back wall that depicted a scene from atop a cliff looking out over the rugged land scape of where he now called home.

@Ayane Yamada

Ayane had never seen so much of Red Rock before!

It was very rural. Acres and acres and miles of fields and also animals that she could smell and had to convince her bear against eating. At the very least, she did appear to become less physical in that other... beary plane.

Ayane was grateful! And eventually, they were seated in a restaurant and ready to devour. She poked at the salsa and chips gladly.

" Where'd you grow up?" she asked. Simply question that allowed her to keep eating.

Well, he'd sort of made her ask that, huh? Sorry for the forced small talk. "Place called Ouray, a few hours south of here." He said around a chip. Crunch, crunch. "It's more green and has more suburbs, but it's got the same feel." He said with a shrug. "Everyone knows everyone. I already sort of know some of the people around my house." Which was a familiar and comforting feeling. Cliffs were not built for big cities. "Where're you from again?" Did he know that? He couldn't remember.

Ewww, he talked while eating and that was really rude. She leaned back politely in case any pieces of chips or whatever flew her way.

"Sacramento," she answered simply. "It's in California. Did you go to college in... Ouray?"

She ordered a beer when the time came to order stuff.

He knew where Sacramento was... Anyway.

"Nah, I didn't end up going to college." He said with a shrug as he sat back away from the chips. No more or he would be too full to finish his food. "I kind of took on my dad's lumber mill, and had my own side carpentry business." So, no need for school, really? He'd kind of been self employed his entire life. Or employed by his father, who was a pretty tough man to work under, but never required him to go to school if he didn't want to.

"Don't suppose you've been a butcher this whole time?" Was his way of asking 'what about you' but not in that boring back and forth way.

There was a moment where she wished he hadn't asked that question. That moment would last through her answer.

"I was turned before I could finish college... so yeah."

A rare lack of stumble to her answer, but delivered softly enough. She busied herself with squinting at a chip like it had a story to tell.

Also she was stumped on what to ask next. Ayane didn't do so great one on one. Or maybe sometimes she did, but.

"If you could have a pet of any kind, which would you choose?"

Oh, yikes. Cliff knew when to not comment on things, but he offered her a face of understanding anyway. Were life got in the way of a whole fuck ton. But she'd done well without going to college, so at least she wasn't entirely hurting for it. The change of topic had him cracking a smile. Sure, okay, twenty questions. "I used to have cats. I'd have like ten." He. Missed. Cats. When was the next eclipse?

"Aww. I think I'd have dogs. Do you have any pictures of your cats?"

The topic changed successfully, she was happy to get back to fooding.

By the way the waitress was there and she ordered giant quesadillas and a giant margarita because she wasn't designated driver.

Oops. Happy birthday, Cliff. She'd let him have it instead and drive him, she decided after.

"Dogs are good, too." He said with a nod. He didn't dislike dogs, he just preferred cats. At the question, he furrowed his brow and moved to grab his phone from his pocket. He probably did on Facebook. He did pause to order an enchilada plate and another Modelo, not really worried about drinking too much considering it took a lot more to get him properly incapable of driving.

He had to scroll a ways back in his albums, but luckily he didn't really post many things on facebook so it was easy to spot the cats among the pictures of wooden sculptures and various projects he'd uploaded. There was a picture of him and his dad on a fishing trip next to it, and he frowned briefly before tapping the image and handing it over for her to see. "That's, uh, Simon." He pointed to the one at the top of the picture. "And then Garfunkle." Creative. "Dad named 'em." A shrug accompanying a kind of sheepish smirk. "I wanted to name them Han and Chewy, but." Dad won.

Here's the thing: Ayane didn't really get the references. So she gave a wide eyed nod to every name, going "Ohh," in time. Sorry he couldn't get his names? She didn't know what a Garfunkel was. Or how Han and Chewie related to each other. (Han like the Han Chinese, right? Weird pair of names.)

"Well, you could always name your bear one of those."

Like how she called her bear Batman.

It wasn't too big of a deal, they were still pretty cute regardless. Cliff pulled his phone back and pocketed it. "Nah," He said with a chuckle. "I mean it's hairy like Chewbaca, but I already kinds call him Smokey." Which was pretty unoriginal, but you know what? He didn't have an explanation. "Not as cool as Batman, though." It was probably the most creative one he'd heard. Their group was sure a mix of names. Smokey, Batman, Mary. He'd sort of settled on Blondie for Riley. What about Indra? Hmm.

"What's a Chewbacca?"

Was it like some kind of animal?


"What." He blinked. Where did she. How- What.

"Chewbacca. Like, from Star Wars?" He prompted, brows knitting. How did she not know him? Even people that didn't see Star Wars (which was really sad) knew about Chewbacca? "Big, hairy dude?" Please, Ayane. D:

So like. Pause. Freeze frame on Cliff's face.

There was this thing in her life, where Ayane realized there was a reference she wasn't getting. And she'd grown up pretty insulated, so it wasn't like it was uncommon for her to have missed out on things, and it also wasn't like she went backwards to try and play catch up with too much of it.

And whenever people reacted like Cliff just did, she got really, deeply uncomfortable. Like she was some kind of alien for not knowing? Like it was something wrong with her. And it wasn't his fault. People just didn't understand it when not everyone grew up with what they did.

And her response was always the same.

"Oh, right! Duh. Forgot," she smiled, because she didn't want to explain all of that. Because she didn't need to feel further judged, or "other." Her stomach already kind of hurt a little bit, deeply rooted insecurities from younger days of running into exactly this over and over again.

And hopefully that would end the topic, and they could get food, and cake, and everything would be grand. Ayane hoped for that.

It was really hard to believe that she just didn't know who Chewbacca was, but maybe she just wasn't a nerd. Which was fine, not everyone was. And he wasn't the kind of snob about movies and stuff that would make someone watch something or be like "don't speak to me if you haven't seen this." Not with people he was just sort of becoming friends with, anyway. That was the kind of meanness reserved for closer friends. "S'okay." He said with a shrug and a chuckle.

DRINKS ARRIVED. And they were told their food would be soon, so he sipped at his beer and munched on some chips even though he'd promised himself he would stop. He waited to swallow before asking, "You nervous about the whole group thing?" He totally wasn't. Nope. Totally confident and not at all apprehensive.

Well. She couldn't say she was nervous any more than she'd probably shown it, right? Ayane decided to blunder into blind optimism and shake her head no to the question.

"Nope! It's gonna be great!"

But when you're already on an anxiety track you just don't need more heaped on. The drinks were here, she offered him her margarita, but probably wouldn't insist if he really didn't want it. Ayane wasn't a strong insister.

Dinner would go great. After dinner would also go great. This her blind optimism insisted on, quietly doing her best to weave out of any more discomfort. (Which, to be fair, she fell into easily. Ayane just wanted to impress.)

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